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The Scene was our Illinois arts & culture podcast through 2017. Rachel Otwell curated the podcast which provided full-length stories and follow-ups, links to other reports, and conversations with you.This podcast contained a range of stories from the world of arts & culture, from visual art to Springfield's DIY music scene, to profiles of interesting local characters. The podcast was about what makes artists tick, and the diverse culture that exists within our community.

Black Sheep Founder Hands Over Reins To DIY Music Venue

Kevin Bradford could justifiably be called the godfather of Springfield's underground punk music scene. He's only 32, but he's managed to help create and feed a culture of do-it-yourself musicians and their fans in a way that is truly incomparable in the city. Bradford recently announced he'll be stepping down as the owner/operator of Black Sheep Cafe(1320 S 11th St.) The good news is, he's not going far. He spoke with WUIS about the challenges and rewards of fostering the city's underground music scene:

Kevin says when first starting out, he was skeptical the small abandoned store front could become the popular venue it is now. He was part of a group of people that helped turn the dream into reality. After about a year, he was left to run it alone. He's been the operation’s glue for the past decade. “It was just a week by week thing,” said Bradford. He cites his spirituality as an important part of what’s kept him going – inspiring him to reach out to local misfit teens at the all-age venue. “I really hope that people got good things out of it and know that they were loved … all of us growing up were kind of loners, a lot of us were introverts, or different … I think a lot of people that gravitate to underground music scenes are the same way,” he says. He says if some people were able to find a home at Black Sheep – he did his job. It was a job he did incredibly well.

As for what’s next? “I got some projects I’m working on … I want to make a place that’s a little more of a hang-out place all the time, you know with food and coffee and things like that," says Bradford. As for Black Sheep itself – the legacy is being passed on to people who have long been a part of the Black Sheep community. A public round-table discussion was hosted on Sunday night to talk about the strategy going forward, and more are planned in the future. Per usual, those who love the venue plan to work collaboratively to keep their second home thriving.

Rachel Otwell of the Illinois Times is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
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