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Artisan's Asylum's New Digs: More Space, Tools, Classes, Craftspeople

The new site, in a warehouse near Union Square, will offer more rentable workspace, tools and potential to invest in the city's arts scene.

This fall, the woodworkers, welders and other craftspeople who belong to Artisan’s Asylum will pack up their East Somerville workshop and head to a much larger space near Union Square.

The move will enable the non-profit organization to rent more workspace, pay a small staff and invest in the community, said founder and president Gui Cavalcanti.

Since the craft space opened last July at 13 Joy St., Cavalcanti has taken on artisans to teach people how to sew, repair bicycles and design and build furniture. About a dozen people also pay $200 to rent a spot and use the band saws, grinder, sander and other tools.

The organization collected enough money from rent, membership dues and fees for classes to pay teachers and keep the space open, but not enough to pay two full-time employees, Cavalcanti said.

He calculated that devoting between half and two-thirds of a much larger space to renters would allow him to pay up to four employees. So he enlisted (OSPCD) to find a building suitable for the new business model.

“It seemed like the only real answer to keep going,” he said.

They discovered the Ames complex, a shuttered manufacturing company near Park Street and Somerville Avenue.

The 25,000 square feet that Artisan’s Asylum has rented there will provide about 70 craftspeople with 50 to 250 square feet of workspace, Cavalcanti said.

One tenant will use his spot to make dinosaur robots for museums; another will be working on a racecar that he and his friends built, and several people will be building kayaks and full-sized boats.

Classes were canceled from August through September at the Joy Street warehouse so that members could move and staff could open the new workshop.

When classes resume, teachers will hold them in an area separate from the rented workspace, Cavalcanti said, and the organization has acquired more tools to accommodate more students, courses and projects.  

Meanwhile, SCUL, a group that builds and rides peculiar bicycles, and the Cambridge Electronics Mixed Media Institute (CEMMI), a digital arts group, will move into the warehouse.

As the organization has grown, Cavalcanti said, members have discussed novel approaches to adult education and developing programs for children. And with its new location and non-profit status, Cavalcanti said, Artisan’s Asylum has the potential to invest its profits in the arts and the community in general through grants and other means.

He said he hopes to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony the beginning of October to celebrate the opening of the new space. 

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