E lm & Oak has been a powerhouse of Boulder music and art for years, and now its owners want to give even more to the community.
Producer Alex Botwin, better known as Alex B or Paper Diamond, and Wallace Gibbs III, better known as Berk Visual, are putting the talent and knowledge of the Elm & Oak record label and design shop to work in the newly formed Elm & Oak Academy. Two to three times per semester, the Academy will host seminars at the University of Colorado covering different aspects of the music and art businesses.
"One of the principles of Elm & Oak, in general, is creating this community of active artists, people in general, who are creating currently. It's definitely something we encourage, and we have a super tight-knit scene," Berk said. "The idea is that we're trying to pair people up directly with the people that are doing it now. I feel like ... a lot of people whose career is fizzling or didn't work out are becoming teachers. Our goal is not to have people who were doing it or wanted to do it, but people who actually are doing it."
As a record label, Elm & Oak works with upcoming producers and performers in hip hop and electronic music, with a roster that includes Paper Diamond, Two Fresh, Cherub, Quiz and Raw Rush. The design side covers a wide range of art, including posters, videos, photography, album art and web design. At the shop, on 13th St. between Pearl and Spruce, they've got their designs on clothing, skateboards, paintings and jewelry.
Much like the diverse interests that drive Elm & Oak as a whole, the Academy will cover a broad range of topics in its seminars.
"I think we see it growing in a lot of different ways now. I know we're going to do a fair amount of art-based ones, so it's not gonna be just music," Berk said. "But even in that realm, we're not doing just the performance side of music, but also some business stuff as well. We want to get into special trades and stuff art-wise -- photography and screen printing -- and even some of the production stuff with music -- lighting and sound -- and even booking and talent buying and stuff like that."
The first session will be big for music-lovers. On Tuesday, Paper Diamond and Big Gigantic will be at Old Main (on campus) from 7:30 to 8 p.m. to talk about music production and business.
"It's amazing that we have Alex (Paper Diamond) and Dominic (of Big Gigantic) here. They're two of the best producers in the game and they call Boulder home. We're blessed to have that talent here in our backyard," Berk said. "In the future, we plan to continue to bring artists of the same caliber, if not even better. It's crazy the response we got, even just from the initial announce. People from all over are offering their time.'
The series is being promoted with the help of CU's Program Council, and priority seating will go to CU students. Berk said there will be about 200 seats for the sessions and about 50 will be saved for non-students. The Academy will also include a premier membership program, which offers members reserved seats, meet-and-greets with speakers and exclusive apparel. Topics for the next sessions have not been announced.
Ultimately, the guys behind Elm & Oak see the Boulder community, and especially CU, as a hotbed for talent.
"I moved here to work in the industry. It wasn't until I lived here that I realized what an impact CU has on the world or the country," Berk said. "There's a huge population of students and they're very active and they do a lot outside of school. We really wanted to tap into that young energy."