Finding synergy between artists, innovators, developers

Artisan's Asylum expanding footprint in Allston-Brighton

IF YOU THINK of some of the world’s greatest and most productive cities through history – Florence, Paris, Hong Kong, New York, and of course, Boston – there is an underlying quality that makes them flourish. In these cities, innovators and artists have always worked side by side sharing their creative spirit, knowledge, and entrepreneurial spirit to develop culture, build commerce, and form the civic fabric.

Boston is one of the leading centers of innovation and culture in the world, and to ensure that it remains competitive and productive on both fronts, we must support innovators and artists, provide them space to create and discover, and make places and communities where they can interact and share creative energy.

The Artisan’s Asylum is one of the country’s oldest, largest, and most vibrant maker spaces in the country, serving artists, hackers, hobbyists, engineers, designers, and performers. After moving from our original location in Somerville, we will officially open the doors to our new space in the heart of Allston-Brighton in September. The Artisan Asylum’s relocation underscores Boston’s strong draw as an artistic center and we will contribute to and help build the city’s arts and culture scene by providing a big platform for unfettered creativity and lifelong learning.

The Asylum’s vision is to create a society in which everyone shares their talents and develops their capabilities so they can contribute to the social, artistic, cultural, and economic vibrancy of our city and region. We support craftspeople creating jewelry, sculpting with 3D printing, woodworking, designing robotics, and so much more. Leonardo DaVinci would feel right at home in our dedicated shops and studios.

Providing artists with this space and sharing it with the broader community delivers exponential benefits that go beyond the artists and into areas of equity, economic development, and cultural vibrancy. And there is the economic impact too. The Asylum encourages local entrepreneurship, which has contributed more than $70 million in economic development impact since our founding. In fact, startups that have created jobs and economic impact, such as Atlas Devices, GeoOrbital, 3D Doodler, Unruly Studios, RailState, Cantux Research, and many others, were launched from Artisan’s Asylum studios, underscoring how spaces that facilitate an intersection of artistic creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship are places where people, businesses, and economies flourish.

Looking to maximize the impact of bringing innovation and artistic creativity together, Artisan’s Asylum and Berkeley Investments are focusing on our shared goal of developing an environment in Allston-Brighton where artists, scientists, innovators, professionals, residents, and the larger community can work, create, and live together. This collaboration started with Berkeley assisting the Asylum with locating and securing the new building site in Allston-Brighton and will continue when, pending permitting approval, Berkeley hopes to reimagine a five-acre, long-vacant site into a place where people live, work, gather, create, and discover scientific breakthroughs.

Artists and creators will be integrated into Berkeley’s new development through the availability of affordable artist live-work apartments, public art installations, and 10,000 square feet of retail space for Artisan’s Asylum in addition to the artistic endeavors underway in the Artisan’s Asylum’s new home right next door.

The history of Allston Brighton’s arts scene includes periods of growth mixed with disruptions and setbacks for artists. Fortunately, these artists are committed not only to their craft but also to creating a vibrant arts community in this part of Boston and providing more artistic space and support helps with this important work. The Asylum’s new building and Berkeley’s proposed project will contribute to growing and stabilizing the independent arts scene in Allston-Brighton, which includes Unbound Visual Arts, the Sound Museum, Harvard’s Art Lab and Ceramics Studio, Zone 3 Western Avenue Corridor, and the film production company Red Sky Studios.

What’s taking place in Allston-Brighton can happen in other city neighborhoods too, which will increase Boston’s livability, creative output, and ability to compete with other major cities. We believe that our collaboration, which utilizes a synergy between artists, innovators, and developers, can serve as a model for a new approach to arts philanthropy. Providing artists with studios, exhibit spaces, and affordable housing helps artists and the arts flourish while delivering benefits to the city, its residents, and economy. Because when you build a space in which artists are creating, scientists are discovering, and people are living, you are practicing placemaking that results in exciting, enriching, and productive centers throughout the city.

Artists, developers, communities, and government can work together – and should work together whenever possible – to ensure that art and innovation are co-existing and flourishing. When people act on their creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial ideas side-by-side, it makes great cities. Building spaces and communities where this can happen makes cities great places.

Antonio Viva is the executive director of Artisan’s Asylum in Allston-Brighton and Morgan Pierson is the director of development at Berkeley Investments and a board member of Artisan’s Asylum.