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Arcade art exhibit to pop up on West Street

Story by Gordon Dritschilo | Originally Posted in the Rutland Herald | April 2nd, 2019

Nick Grandchamp is hoping to recapture a piece of his childhood, and he wants to bring Rutland with him.

Grandchamp, 31, took a break from work Tuesday to play a game of Asteroids. The game is one of several featured in an exhibit he is setting up at the former Stoplight Bar space on West Street — a six-week event opening Sunday and organized by Art Is Vital.

“Nick Grandchamp poses next to his Jr. Pac-Man machine Tuesday morning at a pop-up arcade gallery set to open this weekend.” Photo courtesy of  Robert Layman  / Rutland Herald Staff Photographer

“Nick Grandchamp poses next to his Jr. Pac-Man machine Tuesday morning at a pop-up arcade gallery set to open this weekend.” Photo courtesy of Robert Layman / Rutland Herald Staff Photographer

“Basically, it’s an exhibit and arcade,” Grandchamp said. “I’ll be providing information about each game and when it was made, the history behind each cabinet. ... In the early ‘90s, not everyone had the (Nintendo Entertainment System). If your parents could afford it, you went to the arcades.”

Grandchamp will exhibit eight games from his personal collection and is working with other collectors to display a total of 15 games. The titles are familiar to anyone who spent a decent amount of the 1980s or ‘90s in video arcades — Asteroids, Pac Man, Ms. Pac Man, Mortal Kombat II, Street Fighter II, Galaga, Donkey Kong Jr.

“I wanted to get pinballs, but that is a price range that’s out of this world,” he said.

The pride of his personal collection, Grandchamp said, is the Konami four-player Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game.

“This brings me back to my childhood,” he said. “This is about nostalgia, trying to live my youth again — which a lot of people do in their 30s.”

Bianca Zanella, arts organizer for Art Is Vital, said the group took note of the fundraiser Grandchamp put together last year for local nonprofits, in which he and a friend got people to sponsor them to play Pac Man for 24 hours straight. She said Grandchamp’s passion impressed the organization.

“He was so enthusiastic about being able to bring his collection into the public,” she said. “We wanted to offer him a place to do it.”

Zanella said the venue is on loan from landlord Mark Foley, and the group previously used it to house a conceptual installation by a local artist.

The arcade exhibit, which Grandchamp will oversee around his two-jobs-and-a-band schedule, is slated to be open 6 to 9 p.m., Fridays through Sundays until June 1. Grandchamp said visitors need not worry about bringing quarters.

“Everything is on free play,” he said. “I’m making zero money off this. I’m just trying to do something cool for the community. People need to figure out and be creative to make this community better. This is one way, besides my music, that I can give back.”

The space will be dubbed “Dream Machine II,” after the arcade that was located at the old Rutland Mall on Woodstock Avenue.

“I was really young, but I spent hours there when my parents would let me,” he said. “I’ve always loved arcades. I try to go to every arcade I can when my band’s on tour. I’ve always loved them and the way they make you feel.”

Two years ago, not long after he and his wife bought a house, he said he found the 1989 game DJ Boy — a hip-hop-inspired “beat ‘em up” — at a Goodwill.

“I ended up talking the price down quite a bit. I was like, ‘Wow, I have my own house now, I can have my own arcade.’”

Grandchamp said he started reading online about the vintage arcade game collector community and began buying games on Craigslist.

“A lot of them were broke when I bought them. I have learned to fix them. It takes time to find the original parts online, to get things as much like they were in the ‘80s. ... Unlike home consoles, these are working machines. They have a lot of moving parts on them.”

Some collectors, he said, will buy original cabinets and then install modern computer equipment in them. Grandchamp insists on having the original games in the original cabinets.

“That’s what keeps this hobby expensive — keeping the original hardware on it. These games could get from $700 to $1,000 depending on the shape of the cabinet.”

Computers and the games on them may have gotten orders of magnitude more sophisticated since the games in Grandchamp’s collection were popular, but Grandchamp said he believes the classics are timeless.

“Games like Pac Man have lived through decades now,” he said. “It’s so simple. You have one joystick. All you have to do is move one Pac Man through the maze. It’s simple games that anyone can play. The learning curve is nothing. Galaga — how many free apps put this on your phone? But it’s not the same experience.”

Read the full story online at the Rutland Herald.