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Collaborative Makers' Space Opens In North Adams

A collaborative artist workspace recently celebrated its grand opening in downtown North Adams, a city intent on capitalizing on the creative economy.Looms, sewing machines and a 1,500-pound printing press dot the inside of Makers’ Mill at 73 Main Street in North Adams. For $40 a month people can use equipment to bind books, weave and make paper prints. Board member Emily Watts says a crowdfunding campaign raised nearly $13,000 to support the effort.

“North Adams is a place of makers,” Watts said. “Our whole history is about making things. Here we are and we’re trying to do something that is a new iteration of that. It’s an interdisciplinary collaborative project.”

Drawers and cabinets full of metal letter type and multiple colors of ink line the walls of the open and free flowing 1,875-square foot space to be used by printmakers and book artists like Valerie Carrigan.

“It’s definitely having a resurgence,” Carrigan said. “Artists are now using some of this old printing equipment in more of a modern way and for different artistic purposes than was used before when creating a newspaper, for instance.”

Many pieces of equipment were donated by local residents or Williams College. Williams, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and MASS MoCA are three founding partners among more than 160 project contributors. Diane Scott is an assistant professor of arts management at MCLA. She says Makers’ Mill provides fiber artists and printmakers with machinery that most don’t have regular access to.

“My background is in working with individual artists of all different disciplines…musicians, visual artists, dancers, etcetera on how to deal with the business end of their artistic practice” Scott explained. “The thing that I know from doing that, the biggest thing that was most important was helping them build community and build relationships where they had a group of peers that they could go and ask questions, have support and see how other people did things.”

Makers’ Mill is located feet away from an office-style co-work space that opened about six months agocalled Cloud 85. It now has more than 20 members. Both areas are projects of Lever, an economic development incubator, based in North Adams. Lever’s executive director Jeffrey Thomas says he sees a synergy developing between the organizations.

“The three together are creating now a focal point for creativity and collaboration right here on Main St.,” Thomas said. “The end result is going to be that these are going to strengthen both our community and economy.”

The idea for collaborative and free-flowing workspaces came from the Partnership for North Adams, a public-private initiative that in January 2014 unveiled a plan aimed at revitalizing the city’s downtown. 2014 saw the closing and relocation of numerous downtown businesses including the homemade-candy shop I Got Goodies, which Makers’ Mill now fills. Board member Watts, who is also involved with the publishing and media organization Frog Pond Creative, says Makers’ Mill could offer other opportunities like photography darkrooms if their members express interest.

“We need to get more here, more people on Main St. and want to stay here,” Watts said. “If somebody goes to the makerspace, they make their prints and come out. Then they go to The Hub and have lunch. Then they walk down to Gallery 51 and they see the show there. Then the Williamstown Film Festival is going to be in the space next door. Then they walk back to the co-working space and stop at the pizza. They more we can hold people here I think that is what’s going to change this for the better.” 

Offering classes, workshops and volunteer opportunities Makers’ Mill will be open every day except Monday.

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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