From the street, the large, Victorian-era building looks derelict. The kind of place homeless live, drugs are dealt, and teens skip school to tag with graffiti. A reminder not to take everything at face value and that looks can be deceiving. I followed my friend Maria up the stairs, a constant stream of people hurrying by, and into the cavernous entry room of Tabacalera de Lavapies CSA.
A crowd of artists had gathered to translate an improve musical act into the artists chosen medium – for some it was drawing and painting, for me it was photography. Maria took a seat and I wandered around the room, getting a feel for the light, angles, and people on stage. It was a 2 man act. A young, enthusiastic man was passionately strumming on a banjo, while a gaunt, weathered man belted out Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison. Pens and pencils flew across pages, as the gathered crowd of sketchers tried to capture every movement and gesture.
The event was held by Drawing Madrid, an organizations that meets every Tuesday in this unexpected community building. For over two years artists and performers have be gathering at Tabacalera de Lavapies CSA to offer each other something – actors a chance to performer and drawers a chance to sketch.
This once closed building has been transformed into a community center, but the kind of center that is open to all kinds of expression. The walls are painted with murals and tastefully done graffiti. The four story, massive building is used for a wide array of meetings and community events, including band jam sessions, outdoor movies, drum percussion classes, gymnastic classes, photography exhibits, and much more.
It is the ultimate community space – a building open for all kinds of expression, but that is almost maintained and cared for (quite well) by those who use it.
Here’s a small taste of what the Tabacalera de Lavapies experience was like.