Welcome to the Rumpus Room! The Rumpus was both the first Studio and first monthly theme. It’s a hand-built recreation of Gwen Ihnat and Brian McNally’s beloved basement bar and recording studio. While the recreation itself is a hat tip to the general institution of Chicago basements, the Original Rumpus is something special and specific. In addition to the knotty pine walls with wainscoting, the striking checkerboard floor and the Tiki bar built by George Ihnat, the Rumpus was modular by design. The walls were wired for sound with discrete instrument, microphone, and headphone panels and the room could pack up and convert to a party place in a few short hours. We re-built all of this into the Nomadic iteration to bring the studio to the Studio.
I lived above the Rumpus for the seven years prior to this exhibit, and had the good fortune to be able to reside, record, and well, rumpus there, but also regularly helped Brian update and upgrade the room. It’s very dear to me. That said, there’s not a lot of money in the “replicate a basement studio” racket, so Beth and I wrote for a CAAP grant, which we thankfully received. Even for an exhibit of this size, there isn’t a ton of production money to go around. Like any event, you often just get the space, and have to rely on in-kind loaners of art, materials, time, etc. to keep the thing going. The modest sum allowed us to purchase the wood, walls, and wiring to bring this thing to life. We hand-cut wood-grained sticker paper to checkerboard the floor, and the wiring ran through the walls into the Black Public Radio booth and the sound board for the Convertible Stage. We would be able to document everything, and so we sort of did.
If you look at the end result in the attached photo, you’ll see that we got very close with the Nomadic Rumpus Room. The opening would be hosted there, with three bands that recorded in the Original Rumpus coming to play the party, and it would be the heart and hub of our exhibit. Never ones to waste good material, we also knew that at the end of the exhibit, we’d pack it all up, and install it in my basement, and so we sort of did, too. Thanks, City of Chicago!