Community, Culture & Creativity Collide in the Heart of Gettysburg
By Adam Kulikowski | Photography by Noel Kline
Chris Lauer leans against a makeshift coffee bar just inside the entrance of Waldo’s and Company. The co-director takes a sip of coffee, made from beans he roasted in the 17 Lincoln Square establishment.
He pauses. Thinks. Reflects.
Then he speaks.
The story begins of how a rundown warehouse became a beacon for artists in Gettysburg.
“Art became a lifestyle for me, even if I didn’t make a ton of money at it,” Lauer says. “I developed a love of the art community. The struggles, the interesting view points. I always wanted to foster them. They are often marginalized, on the outsides of communities, of towns, especially traditional towns.”
Out of that ambition grew a tangible space for artists of all sorts—a place to enjoy community, culture, and creativity.
“It started at a warehouse about two blocks over at the Eddie Plank garage,” Lauer says of Waldo’s original location. “It is apartments now with an empty warehouse in the back. But, I took a studio and converted it and some space around it into a neat area. I could open up this giant garage door and invite people in.”
“It was always something I wanted to do, have a warehouse to play with,” he adds. “It was a dream. There was a time that I had given up on that dream. There was a list of things that I had stopped pursuing. I literally had a list of things that I laid before God and said if you want to do any of these things for me someday, that’d be great—if you want to give them back, great.”
Number two on that list? Own a warehouse.
The opportunity Lauer had to create this place, this dream, was simply a sign he couldn’t ignore.
Lauer is quick to point out that this wasn’t just his vision. It was the collective vision of many friends, including Bible Fellowship Church of Adams County Pastor Aaron Susak.
“I just wanted to see a place where neighbors would gather and hang out,” pastor and friend of Lauer’s Susak says. “It often feels like neighborhoods are disconnected and we don’t know the people we live near.”
They saw the potential as a community linchpin and an art venue—a place for creativity to prosper. It grew to a large portion of the warehouse. The word grew.
“This town has been ripe for something like this for a long time,” Lauer says. “Something in the evenings, something for those under 21. Something for music and art that isn’t historically centered.”
Waldo’s has helped to fill that void.
That first location, however, is no longer home to Waldo’s. It was a far-from-perfect home—one whose interior largely was hampered by issues that couldn’t be ignored. After all, there was no plumbing, no heat, and no bathroom. And there were leaks big enough to warrant a roof being built inside to cover the stage.
On Oct. 17, 2014, city officials shut down Waldo’s on Stratton.
But Waldo’s survived. Through donations, the group raised enough to open its new location on Lincoln Square in early November 2015. The home for creative-minded people of all walks is tucked away but still in close proximity to the bustling crowds common to the downtown area.
The vision for Waldo’s was—and continues to be—a simple one: Provide a home for artists to create. A place where musicians can play, painters can fill a canvas, sculptors can mold—you get the idea. Creatives can, well, be creative in just about any way imaginable.
A smile emerges from Lauer as he gazes from the coffee bar at the images on the wall. The vision is alive and thriving.
At the back of Waldo’s, a row of private studios provide artists with personal space, and a makeshift stage for concert performances is prominent from the front entrance. There’s a small bookstore, a dark room, a printing press, and space for art classes. So much potential.
“Art does not necessarily support itself in a lot of ways,” Lauer says. “Creativity is something we need to continue as a lifestyle. It won’t always pay us back monetarily…The gallery, the venue supports that. It helps us rent studios fairly cheaply. But, it doesn’t pay us all either. It is the lifestyle that we need to do for some other purpose than the money. It is worth it. There’s enough value in it to keep going.”
“I love this place…There’s a grander purpose,” he adds. “In a lot of us, we are Christians involved in the town. To us, this is recreation, the Kingdom coming here. This is the end goal. It is not a means to something else. This, bringing community, bringing creativity, it is the end purpose.”
Waldo’s and Company
17 Lincoln Square, Gettysburg
Open Wednesday through Saturday, 4-11 p.m.
Individual studio space, instruction, library and gallery, wood shop/dark room, coffee/kool-aid bar (alcohol free), and music venue