NuLu’s Dreamland has hosted several hundred musical acts over the past several years. But at the end of the month, the event venue will close.
The Wayside Christian Chapel-turned events space was initially renovated by the Louisville Film Society to serve as a micro-cinema in 2012. Once they located to the roomier Portland neighborhood in 2013, musician and sound designer Tim Barnes took over Dreamland with the intention of using it to cultivate the city’s experimental music scene.
Barnes says he’s known for a while that the space would be closing.
“I was notified quite a few months ago that we would have to vacate the space,” Barnes says. “I then asked Gill Holland if we could extend that so we could have the space through June.”
Barnes says he isn’t sure of the exact timeline, but he knows that the group that owns the building itself — which includes developer Gill Holland — is planning on eventually selling the building.
“And we won’t be in this space anymore,” Barnes says. “I don’t think that Dreamland is part of the game plan for whomever is the person that ends up buying the building.”
Holland — who is a member of the Louisville Public Media board — confirmed via email that “Dreamland the venue” would be moving out of the East Market Street space.
Barnes says Dreamland was a passion project — he was never in it for the money. But he says the venture did become self-sustaining.
“It wasn’t like I was digging into my own pocket to pay the rent,” he says.
But maintaining an experimental venue in Louisville has had its challenges. Part of it, Barnes says, was simply convincing people to venture out of their comfort zones when it came to genre.
“It’s great to see friends play their music and stuff like that, but the idea of adventuring outwards is tougher stuff for people because it has to be a win, you know,” Barnes says. “No one wants to go see something that they might not know, take that chance, and then they fall flat on it.”
Another part of it was a balancing act between getting folks through the Dreamland doors, while maintaining a somewhat underground vibe.
“We’re in an age where everything is so easy, you can access every single record by an artist in one minute,” Barnes says. “And I wanted something where people had to dig for it. Come and find us. I didn’t want to put up a huge sign.”
But sometimes this resulted in empty seats.
Barnes says in terms of the future, he plans on taking the summer off from thinking about Dreamland.
“But I think, if I can get some other things in place, it would be really nice to start it back up again,” he says. “I always imagined Dreamland as a project and not like ‘This is going to be my life’ and unfortunately that aspect of it has shown in me being stretched too thin also.”
For that reason, he’s also looking for people with whom to collaborate for an eventual relaunch in a new location.
“I would love to come back to it with a more robust group of people who can really make a place like Dreamland shine,” Barnes says.