City considering a makerspace

Creative Zone
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  March 6, 2014

About 40 people attended a meeting last Thursday night in East Bayside to discuss the viability of establishing a collaborative arts and innovation center in the city of Portland. The Portland Arts and Creative Enterprise (PACE), as envisioned by the organizers, would be a place for artists, entrepreneurs, and makers to work, build, and test new ideas. It would involve local academic institutions such as the University of Southern Maine and the Maine College of Art; it could provide studio and incubator space for artisans and techies, as well as a new life for city-owned buildings in Bayside.

The organizers, who work under the name Creative Space (an initiative of the local non-profit Creative Portland, though that umbrella arts agency has not yet taken a formal position on PACE), are currently in the early stages of their process. According to Thomas Blackburn, a Bayside resident who serves as director of Creative Space, next steps include working with stakeholders, including city officials, to ascertain both the level of need and the best location for such a center.

Regarding the former question, Creative Space believes the need exists — both among individual artists who want affordable studio space and access to equipment (such as 3-D printers or metalwork machinery), as well as among bigger players like USM, which has stated its desire to expand its presence in the local community and potentially even relocate its creativity lab to accommodate more students and two new degree programs: Design and Entrepreneurial Studies.

As for the site, Creative Space has identified the soon-to-be-moved Portland Department of Public Works facility on Hanover Street (next to the two enormous salt/sand bays) as a potential location. Not only would this represent “adaptive reuse of public assets for a public purpose,” it also could inject new energy into a “part of Portland that needs some revitalization,” Blackburn says.

The group points to the Artisan’s Asylum in Somerville, Massachusetts, as an example of what PACE could eventually grow into. That non-profit community “craft space” is a 44,000 square-foot warehouse with about 250 monthly members and 140 studios plus rentable storage and classrooms; it is also a fully equipped manufacturing facility providing access to tools and machines for everything from welding and bicycle repair to robotics and computer-aided design. 

To learn more about or get involved with the Creative Space endeavor, contact Thomas Blackburn atteb@portland.twcbc.com.

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