The Creative Campus

The Creative Campus

A healthy and resilient arts ecosystem includes affordable, long-term multi-use space for artists, cultural organizations, and their communities. Gentrification is putting such spaces within Massachusetts at risk; if not preserved, invested in, or expanded, they will be lost forever. The Creative Campus initiative will serve as a fully capitalized cultural community development corporation with the goal of preserving and developing vibrant and sustainable cultural and maker spaces. We intend to develop and own a network of Creative Campuses throughout Massachusetts that leverage the accumulated resources, human capital, equity, and development infrastructure toward the development of future projects.

Our first project: Creative Hub Worcester 

The historic property at 2 Ionic Avenue in Worcester was once a vital community asset. Built by a generous industrialist in 1914, this magnificent, 30,000SF space was once a haven for youth and one of the original 15 Boys Clubs in the US. On any given day, as many as 1800 boys came to this space for activities like boxing, swimming, basketball, and chess, or to study in the Club’s library. For as little as 25 cents, boys could engage in a wide range of structured activities that also included vocational classes. For many children of working-class families, this Club was a rich social environment. It was also a safe place for hundreds of children of immigrant families who had moved to the area during the manufacturing boom.

The building remained a Boys Club until 2006, when the Club was relocated and the space that had served the community for nearly a century was shuttered. The property had been slated to become a storage facility until the current owner, Peter Heaney, heard of the plans for the Creative Hub—a dynamic space for artists and creative entrepreneurs to work, make, collaborate, rehearse, and perform in a vibrant environment.

This historic building, desperately in need of rehabilitation, is now preparing for a complete transformation into The Creative Hub Worcester. Creative Hub Worcester’s mission is to provide affordable and accessible opportunities in the arts for all Worcester-area community members, with a focus on at-risk and underserved youth. The Creative Hub’s Executive Director and Board Chair are both art educators in the Worcester Public School System. This large and underserved community of youth is thriving with creative potential, but they need additional accessible and supportive environments in which to socialize, learn, and engage positively with their peers.

Creative Hub Worcester will offer accessible after-school youth visual and fine arts programming for students and others within the larger community. Classes will range from beginner-level instruction through advanced placement programs for students exploring careers in design, art and its intersection with technology. Classes will be led by local artists and provide high quality art tools and equipment. In addition to visual arts, the Hub will include a focus on dance and movement as part of a healthy and positive experience for the youth that participate. Creative Hub’s event space and gallery will also offer a space for students to exhibit their work and a place to program larger events focused on youth development.

A makerspace mentor program will provide youth with the opportunity to work alongside working artists who are members of the Creative Hub and who represent many art-making genres, including woodworking, photography, painting, pottery, filmmaking, and more. The mentoring program will provide a long-term collaboration for students and emerging artists. Mentees will eventually become mentors themselves, where they will gain valuable leadership experience.

The Creative Hub will also provide adults with many opportunities to learn and engage in the arts, affordably and at their own pace. While the area’s existing art centers provide specialized classes and private studio spaces, both are largely cost-prohibitive and inaccessible for most of the community. Worcester needs an affordable creative community space that can become a vital part of the arts ecosystem. The Hub is part of an effort to bridge a widening gap between pockets of insulated visual arts communities and the rest of the population.

We know the important role of arts and culture in revitalizing communities. We also know the profound positive effects arts and culture can have on youth, especially in underserved neighborhoods. Now we want to tap into that power to save and reinvent one of the City’s greatest assets.

 

More about Creative Campus

How properties are identified

  • Through our own prospecting via needs analysis, mapping, and partnerships
  • In response to properties made available through formal RFP processes from government entities, banks, and private owners and estates

How spaces are used
Projects may be a standalone building or a multi-building concept. Projects will be identified and programmed with the following priorities in mind.

  • Shared office, including incubator space for small and fringe organizations
  • Shared rehearsal
  • Multi-use black box performance venues (dance, theatre, film, etc)
  • Maker spaces  (printmaking, ceramics, jewelry, music, theatre set design, foundry, etc)
  • Incubator space for tech and innovation

How spaces are designed
Each project will be characterized by the following project DNA:

  • Site and community specific, based on a needs assessment
  • Located in an under-resourced community or one where the arts are in jeopardy
  • Community activated space—open/flexible, accessible, and technology enabled
  • Diverse and inclusive in all aspects of construction, programming, and management
  • Mix of uses and collaborators, e.g. farming, tech incubation, shared maker space
  • Design experimental; high efficiency and green/sustainable
  • Close to transportation
  • Mixed-use and performance friendly, including sufficient load-in and storage space
  • Designed to accommodate rotating public art installations and public events
  • A&BC platform of services provided to tenants

How projects are funded
Each project will be funded through some combination of the following:

  • Angel investment (philanthropic)—angels committed to supporting operations and raising the equity portion (20-30%) of a project budget on a project-by-project basis
  • Private foundations
  • Corporate support and sponsorship
  • Government/municipal funding
  • Tax credits (new market or historic)
  • Bank loans
  • Individual fundraising efforts by tenant or partner organizations interested in investing in the project to support their long term affordable space needs

For more information about Creative Campus or Creative Hub Worcester, please contact Jim Grace (jim@artsandbusinesscouncil.org) or Laura Cashel (laura@artsandbusinesscouncil.org).