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Meet Caelin Graber and Mark Abare of The Hearing Room in Lowell

Today we’d like to introduce you to Caelin Graber and Mark Abare.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Caelin is what I would call, a certified creative person. She loves art, creating art, music, writing, poetry, community, and is a champion of the environment. She is an educator, a nurse, musician, songwriter, and a person that is always looking for beauty in its raw form.

The Hearing Room is the seed she planted in the community. She took a leap of faith to launch a venue that has a diverse open-ended array of creative possibilities.

As for myself, when Caelin was cultivating the idea of opening an art & performance center, I was floored by the vision she had, and how determined she was of how to make it a reality. We worked on the idea over all meals, while we both at our “real” jobs, and even while we were out playing music, talking with folks…whatever. To create a unique space such as ours, requires a dedication and commitment that – unless you’ve done it, you have no idea.

We would be driving to cities and scouting locations, asking people where “hot spots” are, and always have our radar up for leads. The internet gave us some great tools to be able to find available space, street maps so we could virtually scout neighborhoods, and by chance, while driving to a patient’s house in Lowell (she was doing community nursing), she found what would become the home of The Hearing Room at 119 Chelmsford Street.

The Hearing Room opened about two years ago with the mission of providing a space for creativity in all of its forms. It was founded and financed by local artists and musicians for local artists and musicians. Its conception is rooted in the fundamental principle that creativity is one of the most distinguishing features of humans; that it resides in everyone and there is never enough of it around. We are a grassroots effort and we seek to grow organically in response to the needs of the community.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
As anyone who has ever worked on a project of any kind, things never go the way you expect them to! It has been quite a learning experience and we like to say that it is “all good”, however, it has been quite a struggle to attract patrons to the space. First, we have a very low budget, as we are financed by generous donations from working class people and small contributions, so we are restricted in our marketing abilities. Second, there is a lot of competition in the entertainment world, and more and more of this competition is generated by a prevailing trend to “stay home”.

We’re constantly tweaking the things we do. We’re always looking for people that want to be involved, that want to host events, workshops, demonstrations, etc…

It is still unclear to us whether there is enough interest in going out and consuming local original art and music to make us sustainable over the long term, but we remain optimistic and committed to our aspirations of making it a success!

The Hearing Room – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
The mission of the Hearing Room is to provide a space for community projects in the realm of creative expression. We currently host an open mic every Tuesday night, a reading group that meets on Wednesday nights, a music jam every Thursday and Sunday night, featured performances ranging from music, poetry, comedy, and performance art on Friday and Saturday nights and a songwriter’s group that meets on select Saturday afternoons. We have hosted art events, poetry events, and workshops on a variety of subjects, and we are soon adding another open mic on Sunday afternoons. We would like to do more and are always looking for people to get involved and help drive the evolution of the space.

The Hearing Room is very different than other companies. First, it is a project, not a business. Our goal is to operate sustainably and to contribute to the community, not to make a profit. Also, we are a “listening” room where the performance is the attraction, not a side show; we especially like to showcase local original talent. We also believe that artists and musicians are “small businesses” and that they should be paid for what they do. Though we don’t have a budget set aside to specifically pay artists who perform in our space there is usually a suggested donation tied to our events and most of the proceeds that are collected go to the performers. We have a cooperative mindset and view ourselves as forming a partnership with local artists and musicians.

At present, most of our financing and person power is provided by a small group of people who aren’t rich in time or money but who are devoted to the arts. We also receive some of the proceeds from events, and generous contributions from people who recognize the value of the space. We rent the space from people who themselves are devoted to the arts, so this also helps keep us afloat!

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success would be for the space to sustain itself financially and for all members of the community to view us as a valuable resource.


  • We usually operate on $5 to $10 suggested donations
  • We are attempting to roll into a membership model where members will pay $100 a year to preserve our presence

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Eric Gulliksen
Mark Abare

Getting in touch: BostonVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Maureen Canter-Bongiovi & Don Bongiovi

    September 2, 2018 at 10:12 pm

    Stopped by tonight to check out Amervan Songbook Sing Along. Had fun singing with John. Glad we found the Hearing Room

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