So, because I’m prone to harebrained schemes, I’ve found myself starting up an art/craft/workshop collective space, renting out part of a building where some friends live and others have personal studios.I’m basing the idea loosely off Freeside Atlanta and other hackerspaces, even though I’ve never been involved in one myself. Hopefully, we’ll get a bunch of people to pony up $20 a month for access to a big shared workspace and a place (probably a shelf or rubbermaid bin) to store their stuff.
But I don’t need a workshop or studio. I do a lot of knitting, and lately I’ve been churning out drop spindles for friends (and hopefully Etsy), but all my hobbies fit neatly in my home. What I want is a clubhouse, a fort, a treehouse, a public square or a zocalo.
A few of my friends and partners have worked for Starbucks over the years. Part of their corporate philosophy is this idea that everyone wants or has a ‘third place,’ a place that the default to outside of their home and workplace when they want to hang out, be social, or get out of the house. Being the corporate bohemouth they are, of course, Starbucks make sit their mission to be the ‘third place’ for…everyone everywhere, ideally.Which is, frankly, creepy.
But I do think they’re on to something. I get stir crazy if I don’t get out of my house everyday, and depressed if I don’t spend time with friends every few days, at least. Over time, I’ve had the homes and porches of friends, favorite coffee shops, and bars to go to when I want to go out and see people. I’ve lived in the house everyone wanders into to say hi. It’s an integral part of small town life, I think, but both houses and businesses have their drawbacks. Not everyone wants houseguests all the time. (I dare say most people really don’t want their friends around all the time–it takes a special kind of gregariousness to welcome that little privacy. Hanging out at coffee shops gets expensive fast, and the place is never really yours–you’re just a customer in someone’s business. At the best of times, you’re also a welcome face, even a friend, but it’s not the same. And the last few decades of American life have been especially toxic to the idea of public space, or even shared semi-public space, if no one’s making a profit.
So I’m hoping this works out. A friend of mine who does political organizing says one of the things he hears over and over, from people in all walks of life around these parts, is people want a place to get out to. They want to meet their neighbors, break down some of isolation that goes with living where we do, when we do, and build some community. He’s doing that through community gardens, I’m hoping to get it in a workshop. Wish us luck.