Artisan’s Asylum Makerspace Relocates to Harvard’s Allston Campus

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One of the largest makerspaces in the United States is building Boston’s most inclusive, vibrant hub for artistic expression, learning, manufacturing, and creative entrepreneurship. As part of a new long-term partnership with Harvard University, the local non-profit collaborative, Artisan’s Asylum, will move its facilities to the Lower Allston neighborhood in September 2021. Since its foundation in 2010, the member-supported fabrication hub has been continuously introducing 3D printing classes, events and promoting advanced technology’s use to its members, churning out startups, and nurturing talented entrepreneurs.

After a decade of sharing skills and ideas, envisioning projects, and building a network of entrepreneurial ventures in Sommerville, Massachusetts, Artisan’s will settle in at Harvard space in Allston. The plan is to transform a warehouse at 55 Antwerp St. into a vibrant community center, reported The Harvard Gazette. Another project is planned at 176 Lincoln St., currently under development by Berkeley Investments. Both sites are part of Harvard University’s Allston campus, home to Harvard Business School, graduate student residences, and athletic facilities.

Harvard University’s plan for its Allston campus, across the Charles River. Image courtesy of The Plan for Harvard in Allston Executive Summary/Harvard University.

Since 2006, just six years after purchasing the land from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority (MTA), Harvard has been planning and building an expansion of its Allston campus, with completed projects that include the Harvard Innovation Labs, Life Lab, and ArtLab. The new partnership will allow Artisan’s to expand its space and continue to grow operations.

“Harvard is thrilled to welcome the Artisan’s Asylum and its cutting-edge, innovative maker space to the neighborhood. Their plans for the Allston space represent an exciting opportunity to strengthen the region’s creative economy and support community-wide creativity and collaboration,” said Harvard Executive Vice President Katie Lapp. “Artisan’s is a vital community resource that complements and widens our shared goals of nurturing creativity, collaboration, and economic impact.”

Artisan’s Asylum members working on a project at the Somerville, Massachusetts, location. Image courtesy of Artisan’s Asylum.

“An inclusive refuge for makers and creatives,” that is Artisan’s promise. Everyday makers, hackers, engineers, artists, artisans, entrepreneurs, and creatives go to Artisan’s Sommerville facility to use the fabrication equipment, professional design and modeling software, educational and training opportunities, and shop, studio, and storage spaces. The Mission? Making creativity a way of life. Artisan’s inspires people to learn new skills, pass those skills to others, and encourage the growth of an inclusive creative community that is always searching for new members. Best of all, spaces like Artisan’s provide access to tools, education, and resources needed to make a living out of creative inspiration.

The relocation plan from Sommerville to Allston’s 52,500 square feet space means Artisan’s is looking to invest $4.7 million in the design, build-out, and finishing of its new home. It will include the base build (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and structural work), finishes to the space (shop walls, studios, and amenities), and operating costs associated with the move. However, thanks to early support from key partners, like Berkeley Investments, and individual donors, Artisan’s has already secured nearly $4 million and is only $715,000 away from its fundraising goal. At this rate, the new site’s base build will be complete by May 2021, and just two months later, the move can begin.

“Harvard is committed to ensuring that the arts remain central to the University’s campus in Allston,” ensured Marika Reuling, Managing Director of Harvard’s Allston Initiatives team. “One of the University’s top priorities remains continuing to engage in efforts to support the region’s robust artist community and to [continue] to bring a diverse mix of uses in the neighborhood. Through its ongoing support of local artists through programs such as the Allston-Brighton Winter Market, the Western Avenue Arts Walk, and Zone 3’s Pop-Up! Artist Shop, and more recently announced Window Shopping experience, the University is working steadfastly to ensure that the arts continue to thrive throughout the region.”

Artisan’s Asylum instructors teach members to 3D Print on the hub’s entry-level printers Flashforge and Taz. Image courtesy of Artisan’s Asylum.

Since its inception, Artisan’s Asylum has generated meaningful community impact in Somerville and throughout the Boston region by providing a home for restless makers. It is credited with attracting the Greentech incubator Greentown Labs to Somerville and contributing substantially to the local creative economy’s value, contributing more than $70 million in business activity.

As the result of an original collaboration between robotics engineer Gui Cavalcanti and costume designer Jenn Martinez, the dynamic hub has successively helped launch 25 startups responsible for creating over 150 jobs during the last ten years. Artisan’s saw the birth of the world’s first 3D pen, the 3Doodler; GeoOrbital, the self-powered electric wheel, and MegaBots, a startup that recreates giant robots from science fiction. Overall, members have already raised $4 million on Kickstarter campaigns for various small businesses.

Artisan’s Digital Fabrication and Design Lab currently have 3D printers from MarkForged, FlashForge, and Ultimaker. Members can also attend 3D printing classes, such as Rebecca Knepple’s “Tool Training: 3D Printers” or the more advanced “3D print Optimization” course. However, the new, larger shared workshop will offer up to 120 studios for creativity, making, and entrepreneurship of all kinds; a multipurpose community space, more classroom areas, and much more. Since the launch of the “maker” movement in 2005, these spaces have benefitted local economies by helping the skill base grow and encouraging hands-on learning. Hubs like Artisan’s create unique opportunities to enlighten minds, so we can expect this new expansion to attract more participants to the space.

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