In these strange economic times, groups of young creatives around Boston have banded together to start nontraditional, cooperative work spaces. What they lack in water coolers and group health-insurance plans, they make up for in creativity, reciprocity, and pluck. Meet three spaces around town that are redefining what it means to go to work.


If it wasn't for the "Cambridge Refrigeration Company" sign hanging over its door, and the unusual tidiness of its stock, Lorem Ipsum Books would look like any other used bookstore. But the airy, white-walled Inman Square space has become the unlikely nexus for a group of artists and activists.

It all started in 2010, when Lorem Ipsum moved to its current Cambridge Street location from Hampshire Street, and its staff suddenly found itself with a lot of room. Soon, the booksellers began bringing their pet projects to work with them.

"I came in and noticed this huge space that wasn't really being utilized," says store director Peter Loftus, 21, who started working at Lorem Ipsum right after the move. "I kept thinking about how big the wall was."

The wall in question, a 60-square-foot, pristine white surface, is currently covered in illustrations by local artist Madoka Fukai.

Lorem Ipsum has used its capacious basement — which hosts the video production company Loroto, as well as a rotating cast of professionals that have included programmers and a carpenter — to give studio space to artists. They also act as a gallery, holding a monthly opening and a group show once a year. Corvid College, the floating, unaccredited anarchist institute, holds art classes here.

Through connections to the local music scene (Loftus is part of the booking collective Dreamhouse), Lorem Ipsum puts on weekly shows. The staff cover the front windows to screen the occasional film. And sometimes, they even host readings. There will likely be more of these soon: since the Pierre Menard Gallery closed, Loftus and company have been approached by a number of local poets looking for a new venue.

"All of these events have been so dependent on the adaptability of the space," Loftus says. "Everything is on wheels."

Lorem Ipsum's more static creative endeavors involve print. The staff of the literary journal The Inman Review holds meetings in the basement. High 5, the charming hand-written zine "for cheapos, weirdos, and wingnuts," is produced in-house (Loftus is one of the editors). And in November, the Paper Cut Zine Library transformed what was once a storage space in the back of the store into a fully functional lending library offering 14,000 periodicals, as well as zine-making workshops and release parties.

"I've been very lucky to be able to try all these new things that were kind of unorthodox for a bookstore," says Loftus. "It's interesting to see what works and what doesn't. Almost anything will work as long as we keep trying at it."

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