The Youngstown Cultural Arts Center is in Delridge, right across the Spokane Street Bridge. It's a 30-minute bicycle ride from downtown—it would be less if it weren't raining and you weren't on a bike with bad brakes and you weren't nervous that those 18-wheelers couldn't see you in the gloom so you were riding very slowly on the sidewalk.

Youngstown is in a renovated old public school—one of those gorgeous four-story buildings from the 1910s, before the Cement Revolution ruined institutional architecture—and, if nobody's around, you can wander the hallways, pretending to be a tough-love principal like the one Morgan Freeman played in Lean on Me. You can open the empty lockers and admire how dignified and graffiti-free the school looks since you took charge and what a good man you are for changing the lives of so many kids and how fancy the new track lighting is. The reverie is shored up by the real evidence of students on the walls, like this list of goals: "1. Hang out with the good people's. 2. Never smoke. 3. Don't get into trouble. 4. Finish all my work. 5. Do what the teacher says to do." Down the hall, another piece of paper on the wall advertises workshops for adults on "decluttering your home" and "April gardening tips." Youngstown is, literally, a community and arts center, with a theater, a dance studio, a recording studio, offices for organizations like Arts Corps, classes for adults and the inevitable "at-risk youth," and affordable artists' apartments on the top floor. (One couple flew out from New Jersey just to apply for the first-come, first-served studios—they were accepted.) And it was born of neighborhood efforts.

"It seems like a lot of arts communities wait for decisions to get made for them and then fret about it afterwards," said Randy Engstrom, founding director of Youngstown. "Here, they raised $30 million dollars and most of the city didn't even notice." It's true: A bunch of people got together, formed the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association, and raised $30 million dollars to renovate Youngstown as well as build a food bank/community center and affordable cohousing with four acres of green space.

Engstrom and I sat in the old school office, talking over a table whose top was made from the gray-green slate of the old chalkboards. Our conversation rode its bike into the land of local music (bars, liquor sales) and local theater (grants, flailing) and we wondered about the audience gap between them. On the Boards seems interested in bridging the two—witness last April's Devendra Banhart, CocoRosie, and Antony and the Johnsons concert—and, this weekend, hosts 2 Foot Yard and the Blow. Multi-instrumentalist Carla Kihlstedt, who has played with Tom Waits and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, leads 2 Foot Yard. The Blow (a dreamy electro-art-pop duo from Portland) uses ridiculously funny animation and videos, including crayony doodles of magic ponies. The kind you might find wedged into a forgotten corner of an old school.