Stroll down Pasaje Santa Rosa on an early weekday evening and you’re bound to miss it. Even from across the street, the looming features of the wizard and owl which make up POMO, Distrito de Arte’s exterior mural are tricky to spot, blending seamlessly into Palermo Soho’s abundance of street art and low-level architecture.
Should you notice the low hum of chatter, or the sultry highs of a saxophone from behind the non-descript black door that contains POMO’s bustling audience, however, and you may well be enticed into a room filled with candlelit tables – couples and friends huddled around cans and liter bottles of beers.
Behind the bar, you’ll be met by owners Andrés Kopytynski (DJ and producer) and Janette Kolonski (painter), who’ve been providing a platform for BA’s up and coming, sometimes more than established, artists to showcase their work – both musical and visual – in POMO’s two galleries on a near-nightly basis since December 2015.
“We wanted to set up shop in a growing area like Palermo, but with a kind of elegant and relaxed vibe,” Andrés tells me on a particularly cold June night, as a variety of folk gather in POMO’s first gallery, where local artist Cholo Bonavera is exhibiting his latest work on transsexual culture in Argentina.
“At first, our aim was to feature known and upcoming local artists, after which we wanted to provide a well-equipped space for live music and performances.”
A wide and transient spectrum of art and live music is what has come to define POMO, providing a certain edge that is sometimes difficult to find in an increasingly commercialized area such as Palermo. Indeed, POMO’s authenticity stems largely from the fact that the pair had to build the place up from, quite literally, nothing.
“It was pretty much derelict when we got it, having suffered more than ten years of neglect”, says Andrés, who worked on refurbishing the space while Jan took control of promotion via social media, all while working two jobs to raise funds.
“Luckily for us, the local arts and music scene is very rich and varied. We don’t charge for the use of our space to musicians, and we give almost everyone that asks an opportunity to play. Our end goal has and always will be supporting local artists and providing a place to show their work and perform.”
Walk in on a weeknight, for example, and you’ll be met with anything from surf rock to jazz, spanning from the mainstream to the truly experimental, while weekends welcome independent curators to create parties of their own.
Will Hiscocks, student and one-half of jazz and funk night Chorifunk, describes how POMO are lending a hand to up and coming organizers:
“We approached the guys with our idea and they helped us set it in motion, and with no hire charge, it allowed us to focus our energies onto other aspects of the event. It’s an ideal set-up.”
It’s these kinds of spaces, in spite of the barriers put up by the local government, that are breathing life into Palermo’s art and music scene – allowing new and upcoming artists to have a hand in curation.
Such barriers – which vary from license restraints to volume regulations – are an expected hassle for owners like Andrés and Jan, and it’s not all too rare to find government inspectors lingering outside, noise-gauging equipment at the ready.
“Just last Saturday, we were hosting an event with a DJ playing in the main room”, Jan explains. “All of a sudden, five or six inspectors show up, I dash to the main room, cut the music, throw a poetry book at the DJ and tell him to read it to the audience. Everyone was pretty clueless, but they went along with it and the inspectors didn’t suspect a thing.”
It’s not just the up and coming that thrive on POMO’s informal style. La Roman, a gypsy jazz group from the city, have been regulars at the venue since its inception, and now have two full-length albums to their name.
“Having places like POMO means we can spread our art, and it’s an unquestionably big supporter of culture, opening their doors to painters, sculptors, DJs and music of all varieties”, La Roman member Jorge explains.
“We’ve played here every month for a year, and we’ve managed to set up a cycle with a divergence of amazing people, of all ages and all countries.”
That diversity – bringing a constant stream of new ideas, faces, and languages – is arguably the key to POMO’s charm, as well as the name it has already made for itself within the Buenos Aires scene. Looking to the future, however, Andrés and Jan seem set on sticking with the people and mentality that has done so much to take POMO to where it is today.
“We surround ourselves with talented, leftfield artists. These people are the ones that inspire us, and our aim has always been to remain where creativity and inspiration are at their highest. That, for us, will always be underground.”