Artisan space proposed; WAG, Technocopia combine forces.
WORCESTER -- To say the city is home to the largest makerspace in the country would put Worcester on the map in a different way.
That's according to Randolph "Randal'' Gardner, chief executive officer and treasurer of the Worcester Artist Group. Together with the creators of the makerspace Technocopia on Prescott Street, he and a group of local artists, engineers, creators and artisans are working to make an 87,000-square-foot space in the Greendale section of the city theirs.
The large planned makerspace -- complete with artist studios, apartments and possibly an auto shop, woodshop, glassblowing space and more -- would be open to all to use for a fee under the name the WorcShop, pronounced "workshop.''
"If we could have this, that would be an incredible feather to put in Worcester's cap,'' Mr. Gardner said.
The two nonprofit organizations are working together to acquire the building at 40 Pullman St., a piece of the former Pullman Co., which manufactured train cars during the heyday of railroads.
Walking through the vast and grungy space at 40 Pullman, with paint peeling off the walls and grime on the floor, but also inviting sunlight streaming in through floor-to-ceiling windows, Mr. Gardner explained that the WorcShop is years from completion. WAG and Technocopia are just starting to apply for grants to fund the estimated $3 million project, with hopes of starting a crowdfunding campaign in the near future.
Mr. Gardner, 35, originally from Southbridge, co-owns Eternity Ironworks at 97 Webster St. with Joshua Swalec, 34. Mr. Swalec, originally from West Boylston, is president of WAG, where, at 97 Webster, the space houses artist studios and a makerspace totaling about 15,000 square feet. They, along with Angela "Void SansAnge'' Pasceri -- sole proprietor of Voids Creations and WAG clerk -- agree they have outgrown that space.
Over at Technocopia, at 95 Prescott St., Nick Bold, director of Technocopia and WPI graduate; Kevin Harrington, another WPI graduate; and Kent Flowers work to run their fairly new makerspace to assist local engineers, computer scientists and others in developing technical projects in about 5,000 square feet. The three men are also part of the worker cooperative Neuron Robotics, as a few of that entity's staff and co-owners. The STEM-centric group says they would be thrilled to combine and work with WAG.
"We're doing the same sorts of things with the same sorts of people in the same town,'' Mr. Harrington, 29, said. "It was sort of inevitable that we'd end up meeting.''
The gang came up with the idea to join forces in the fall, and the wheels have been turning since. They're applying for funds, seeking philanthropists for support and circulating an online survey to find out what resources locals would be looking for in a large makerspace.
So far, the group says they have more than 200 people interested in renting space or memberships, ranging in estimated price from $35 to $75, depending on the plan. Rental work space would range from a proposed $40 to $175 per month.
There are plans to renovate the 40 Pullman St. building to house 30 to 45 apartments along with about 100 artisan studios. The WorcShop could additionally accommodate a large greenhouse, a certified kitchen, a recording studio, a photography darkroom and a silk-screening setup, depending on demand and input from the public. The team says that at the least, the WorcShop will have equipment for precision machining, sculptural metalworking, multiple types of welding, woodworking, electronics and robotics assembly, sewing, bicycle repair and high-tech computerized manufacturing such as a laser cutter and a plasma cutter.
The group says they need to raise about $400,000 to start renovating the Pullman site. From there, the entire building should be ready in about 18 to 36 months. Mr. Gardner said having the opportunity to modify the space will allow artists to work safely and allow members to show off their stuff with events, parties and performances.
"Right now, we don't have sprinklers,'' Mr. Gardner said inside 97 Webster St., pointing to the ceiling of a gallery space. "We just can't invite people over. ... I would love to be able to share (our work).''
Mr. Bold, 28, who is studying at Worcester State University, said combining efforts will save costs on overhead and make the project more efficient overall.
Ms. Pasceri, 30, a Worcester native, referred to the efforts as building a "sustainable creative economy'' locally.
"We're it, for Central Massachusetts, anyway,'' Mr. Gardner added, "and we're going to provide a tremendous bang for the buck to whoever (donates to us).''
To contribute and provide feedback in a survey on ideas for the proposed makerspace, visit goo.gl/g4nTVj. For more information on Technocopia, go to http://technocopia.org/. The Worcester Artist Group has more information at http://www.worcestermass.org/arts-culture-entertainment/arts-culture/arts-service-organizations?placeid=2678.
Contact Samantha Allen at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @SAllen_89.
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|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Jan 17, 2015|
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