Thursday, Feb 21 2013 02:38 PM

Her space is home for all local artists

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    By Photo by Terry Derouchie

    LisaAnn LoBasso, owner of nXcaffe CoffeeClub & ArtHouse, performs at The Grand (Poetry) Slam Carnival Hour in June.

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BY STEFANI DIAS Californian assistant lifestyles editor sdias@bakersfield.com

While many see downtown Bakersfield as a hotbed of artistic activity, fewer may know that the arts are flourishing a few miles northeast. That's where the nXcaffe Coffee Club & Art House will celebrate its first anniversary with a trio of events on Friday.

The night will kick off with a musical showcase, hosted by Ezekiel Veloya Espanola, with performances by his group, 40Block, as well as Tim Davis, The Nah Almighty, Garage Island and Alone Family. After the showcase is On the Fly, a monthly open-mic event that will highlight folk pop duo Arizonity.

For the artistically inclined, the night's just getting started when the Overnight Jubilee begins at 11:30 p.m.

"It is a very new idea," said nXcaffe owner LisaAnn LoBasso, of the all-night artistic collaborative effort. "Combining artists from all genres, collaborating and staying all night is the creative session. ... Artists of all types will create in new ways hopefully, crossing genres and working together with artists they know and also artists they have never worked with before. We are excited to see how this experience works out and encourages experimental work."

Artists ringing in the "nX-year" are expected to bring their brushes, pens and instruments to create through the night, which will be capped by a morning share session at sunrise.

(Attendees are asked to bring their own nap and snack items, although coffee will be provided.)

Visual preparation has already begun on the space in advance of Friday's festivities, LoBasso said.

"We have been adding more Word Art in order to get ready for our celebration. Our front door is now covered with poetry. Also we added Graffiti Gazebo art in order to commemorate the one-year anniversary. ... And we have been constantly having build days, making progress on Project Fence!, our landmark art fence that is built out of primarily recycled materials."

The artistic celebration is merely the latest for the unique gathering spot that opened in February of last year. That's when LoBasso, a local poet and artist, literally opened her North Baker Street home to the local arts scene, converting part of it into an informal salon modeled after A Gathering of the Tribes, a similar art group based in New York's Lower East Side.

Dividing her home into a clubhouse and personal space took some adjustment, but LoBasso feels that the nX has found its groove.

"Overall it has been a transition that has been pretty smooth. In the first six months it was harder. If I was in a grumpy mood, I was careful to go around the community area so as not to bring my negative energy into the positive energy space of the nX. Luckily there are separate entrances.

"It was difficult to learn to give up a great deal of privacy since, although I am a poet and an artist, I am still a very private person."

LoBasso was willing to sacrificing that personal space in order to provide a haven for artists and those who appreciate art.

"The most exciting part of running the nX is seeing outside my own environment and needs and providing a community space for artists, making a space that other artists feel at home and welcome, where they make connections and bond with people that they wouldn't have otherwise met.

"The nX is all about accessibility for the artists, on one level, but also for the public who wants to access the arts but sometimes might feel intimidated."

Each month, the nX sees about 80 to 100 visitors, a mix of artists and others. Along with four monthly anchor events -- On the Fly and Speakeasy open-mic events, a monthly artists reception and guided meditation -- the space is home to twice-weekly prenatal yoga and miscellaneous gatherings, such as Project Fence!, drumming circles sound therapy and poetry critique workshops. The nX hosts out-of-town artists passing through as well as local members who want to offer regularly scheduled activities or one-time events.

"We are a no-red-tape venue for artists of all types."

That inclusiveness is key to LoBasso.

"What is very important to me is keeping the nX accessible and not cliquey. We don't want any artists to feel excluded or (deal with) unnecessary drama. Art of all genres and levels as well as all artists should be respected at the nX."

After this weekend's celebration, it's full- steam ahead for more events. On March 8, the nX will host a reception for a "gone wild" art exhibit, organized by newly appointed curator Alexandra Ortiz; as well as the monthly Speakeasy and interactive video show by Sacramento-based duo Eli and the Sound Cult.

Completing the fence and planning other permanent art projects is on the horizon as well as a possible second venue.

"We have been in negotiation of expanding to a downtown location, but we are still in the planning phase."

LoBasso said she is also working on bolstering the volunteer base to help with outreach and networking.

"We hope to spread the word of, not only our events, but also our commitment to the community, our mission and our funding needs."

Even with the growth so far, LoBasso said she is proud of what the community has created at the nX.

"It has been exciting to watch our home, the unused formal space, transform and grow into this type of environment."

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