Alan Nidle's Scrapstock Cancelled:

Indefatigable Community Activist Stays Afloat Through Setbacks

By Susie Davidson

Advocate Correspondent

CAMBRIDGE - Despite the recent denial by the City of Somerville, Alan Nidle's show will go on.

Scrapstock, a multimedia, multigenre, 75-band music, dance and art series slated to run over a 3-weekend period in a Union Square junkyard, was nixed by the city due to licensing, security and insurance issues. Union Square residents had also raised concerns over the scale of the proposed event. Although support and enthusiasm for the idea were high among the arts community and the Somerville Arts Council, the logistical factors proved its undoing.

Much of Scrapstock will, however, occur in alternate, indoor venues such as Somerville's Abbey Lounge; the Cambridge YWCA in Central Square is a possibility at press time for this coming weekend (check www.project3.com/scrapstock.html).

However, it will take far more than a single event's postponement to stem the mettle of longtime community activist and Zeitgeist gallery proprietor Nidle. A Worcester native with a fine arts degree from Clark, Nidle, who lives in Somerville's Winter Hill with his wife and daughter, is the proprietor of the Zeitgeist Gallery at Norfolk and Broadway in Cambridge. Zeitgeist, home of many performances, series and events also run by partner Rob Chalfen, has also come under fire this month. "We haven't been evicted, though," emphasizes Nidle. "But, the landlord has objected to the live music, which has ironically been going on for years.

"The music is integral," he continues, "and so we're looking at new options." A larger, Western Ave. locale is a possibility.

At the gallery, Radio Free Cambridge broadcast at 20 watts for four years until the FCC shut it down last year, clearly ending a good thing. "We could be heard from Arlington Heights to Everett," says ex-RFC DJ and poet Buddah. "We had oudoor broadcasting at adjacent Sennott Park," adds the recipient of four 2001 Cambridge Poetry Awards. Evidently, those associated with Nidle's projects are no slouches either.

In the meantime, Nidle says, Zeitgeist shows are a little quieter, and are ending a little earlier. "This is definitely part of a pattern in Cambridge," he laments.

Nidle first made a splash in 1986 with Street Magazine, a publication by and for the non-Wall St. Journal crowd. From his Essex St. location, other arts projects ensued, with Street eventually folding into Heretic Mag.

He then launched Street Coffeehouse in the Essex St. basement, and next, Naked City Coffeehouse on Cambridge St. in a Brazilian restaurant (it moved to Allston and still exists today at Thursday's Squawk Coffeehouse at the Harvard-Epworth Church in Harvard Square).

Nidle's myriad and multifarious ventures have included a free film series at Winthrop Park in Harvard Square (a two-years' running film series at Carberry's restaurant was halted due to a neighbor's opposition to the applause), Piano Dave's Art Gallery on Hampshire St., a music/poetry memorial to Amadou Diallo, called 41 Shots, in the Harvest Co-op parking lot. Zeitgeist's "Amnesiacs" played softball last October 1st at Hoyt Field in a benefit for neighborhood group On The Rise. Well known in Cambridge City Hall, he's worked to increase student involvement in government, expand affordable housing and improve living conditions for the poor and the homeless.

He's a friend to the creative and the underprivileged, and a thorn to those who attempt to curtail rights of expression. He's a crusader for freedom and equality, unfettered opportunity and, of course, some great art and music. And it's certain that his projects will long continue to entertain and inform as they provide a voice to the plethora of talent in this city.