Bar of Modern Art, Columbus




The hottest spot in don't-call-it-cow town
By Justin Hampton
Photos by Pam Theodotou

So, how are they gonna keep you down in the Midwest after you’ve spent most of the ’80s working the doors and VIP rooms of the most legendary clubs in New York City nightlife? Simple: by preaching the gospel of high-end nightlife straight from the pulpit of a former Baptist church and throwing in seven bars, three sound systems, and two art galleries. And a four-star restaurant while you’re at it.

Tom Starker, the co-founder of Columbus, Ohio’s Bar Of Modern Art, certainly had to keep life interesting for himself after serving as doorman to NYC’s Studio 54 and Palladium during Steve Rubell’s glory days in the ’70s and ’80s. So, last October, he decided to apply a little of what he learned over the years to his own superclub vision.

Stuart Gray, vice president of systems integration for BoMA installation firm Sound Ideas (, recalls a simple case of hometown pride as the catalyst. “Tom [wanted] this to be a big-city nightclub, with a sound system and a lighting system like you find in a big-city nightclub. He doesn’t like the idea of Columbus [being] referred to as a cow town. He [wanted to] do something special like you’d find in a bigger city. So that was the initial concept.”

Six years and more than $3 million later, the Bar Of Modern Art is a 23,500-square-foot spectacle of design and luxury, in a city not used to either. And the crowd angling for entry every weekend night recalls in their desperation the clientele of a certain ’70s Big Apple hotspot.

Curb Appeal
The enchantment begins outside, on the venue’s patio. Here, two octagonal “lighthouses” made specifically in the style of the original 1890s stone church contain four Martin Professional MX-10 Extreme moving mirror fixtures, two per lighthouse. These lights pierce through three polycarbonate panes to project the club’s logo, as well as other abstract gobo patterns, onto the front facade of the church. Gray programmed a dizzying array of lighting patterns juggling the gobos with the logo, using the Elation Professional DR512 DMX real-time recorder. Within the building itself, these lights also shine through the facade’s stained glass window to lushly illuminate the dining area in the club’s Great Room. Gray is particularly pleased with the reactions from the c

itizenry. “When [BoMA] first opened and they fired that light show up, it was stopping traffic out on Broad Street, because people were stopping and watching it,” he reports.

A whole new world awaits clubgoers once they’ve impressed the door people enough - or even Tom himself on occasion, in proper Rubell-ian style - to gain admission.

The main Sanctuary and its attendant balcony beckon with 12 more MX-10 Extreme moving mirror fixtures positioned on the mezzanine’s face, allowing them to shine both onto the dancefloor as well as onto the white ceiling. Four Mach CM18I speakers for mids and highs, also mounted to the mezzanine, encircle the dancefloor. Gray found the dynamics of these boxes well suited for that position: “This particular box was specifically meant as a medium to short-throw, high-output box. So, in a situation like this, where you’re fairly close to the speakers, you can go up to them and stand underneath them and you’re maybe 12 feet away from them. It worked great.” Two CM18is are also positioned to the left and right stage openings on the mezzanine, and a Mach CTW1 supertweeter cluster is suspended from the rafters 30 feet in the air to fill in the upper ranges. Amplifiers from QSC’s CX Series provide power.

Four Martin Professional MAC 250 Krypton moving heads also hang from the ceiling, as well as two Elation Professional Proton star strobes, which can completely illuminate the space as dramatic focal points. A Martin Professional Mania EFX500 effect light keeps things happening in the mezzanine area. Elation Professional PowerSpot 575s light the stage, and DesignSpot 250 moving heads provide a nice wash, thanks to their variable frost filters. Martin Professional LightJockey handles programming for all the lights in the room.

BoMA lives up to its "modern art" moniker.

Saving The Stained Glass
The DJ booth is where the pulpit once stood. Within it is a Raxxess KAR 38/28 equipment rack, holding the dbx 260 digital processing unit and QSC amps, standing unconcealed as a visual work of art in itself. Gray appreciates the conveniences digital processing affords him: “It lets you do in a single rack space what literally a whole rack of analog processing can do,” he says. “And if I want to tweak the sound system, I just plug a Cat5 cable into it, and sit out in the middle of the dancefloor and listen to it and adjust things as necessary, which you couldn’t do with a rack of analog processors.”

Under the stage are four Yorkville élite Series LS1208 “basspipe” subwoofers (so named for their multiple flare horns, which are connected to an organ-like pipe, slowly flaring to the mouth to optimize bandwidth), with two QSC RMX-5050 amps assigned to them. Special care was paid to limiting of the system, so as not to shatter the church’s century-old stained glass with hazardous sound frequencies.

BoMA adopted a progressive attitude toward video as well, embracing hi-def on the main stage’s 20' diagonal screen – the largest of its kind in Ohio, according to the club – as well as on ten 40" JVC LCD monitors throughout the club. The club VJ has two Numark VJ01 DVD decks and an AVM01 video mixer for hardware, as well as the Arkaos VJ 3.0 video artist software and Motion Dive Tokyo performance package that allows him to create promotional signage, edit or apply effects on the fly, and send the signal anywhere in the club through the Knox Mediaflex 16 A/V matrix. Employees in the Great Room or Underground can select A/V signals from here or anywhere else in the club through a push on a VITY touchscreen.

Three Is All You Need
The smaller Underground club space and the lounge-y Great Room have their own scaled-back, but no less impressive, systems to match the Sanctuary. Dancefloor lighting for the Great Room was eschewed because of the art on the walls (which gives the club its name), but four white-colored, self-powered QSC ADS82H Acoustic Design two-ways provide for mid-highs, and a QSC HPR-181W subwoofer is stashed into the wall.

The Underground, meanwhile, makes the most out of very little. Four Martin Professional Mania SCX500 scanners hang from the ceiling to provide the room’s sole illumination. Two Yorkville C2560 Coliseum Series speakers provide mid-highs, while a QSC HPR-181W subwoofer handles the low end from a recessed corner. Gray marvels at how well these speakers handle sound for this space. “When I tell other DJs coming in to play that there’s three speakers in this room, they don’t believe it,” he marvels. “So sometimes, simple is a good way to go.”

Not even a year since turning the church key on the new property, BoMA co-founder Pamela Theodotou reports that she and her crew of employees and technicians continue to find new elements of the system and the space to explore and exploit for the delight of their patrons. Even Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman celebrated his birthday here. Theodotou credits such success in part to the system they’ve inherited.

“I think [Sound Ideas] have designed a system beautifully so that it doesn’t overwhelm what’s here, and it yet can completely fill the senses when we need it to,” she says. “We have provided central Ohio with something that they previously were only finding in larger cities. They’re used to getting [high-end nightlife] experiences outside of our town. Now they can get it while they’re here."

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Copyright 2006 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2006 TESTA Communications