Spaceus Turns Vacant Storefront Into Hybrid Artist Space

SpaceusPhoto courtesy of Spaceus.

What is Spaceus? The pop-up that’s set up shop inside a vacant spot in Harvard Square is at once an artist workspace, a storefront, and an event space.

Two MIT architecture grad students founded Spaceus in the spring to address both artists’ needs and the city’s empty storefronts.

“It was out of a frustration of basically walking by vacant storefronts and seeing them sit empty for months, if not years, as residents of Cambridge,” says Co-founder Ellen Shakespear. “Everybody has that one storefront that drives them crazy, whether they live above it, or down the street from it. It’s something that motivated us to start this.”

The 20 Brattle St. location is the third iteration of Spaceus, following stints at Faneuil Hall and in Roslindale. Spaceus has evolved each step of the way, according to Shakespear: what started as a membership-based artist workspace grew to include public events (think calligraphy workshops, performances, and more), and later grew to include a retail space for members’ creations.

“It became increasingly clear that people were looking for venues to host a performance, or an exhibition, and that sometimes it was hard to find appropriate venues,” Shakespear says. “There was this third space that was needed.”

Professional development for members is also a key element of Spaceus, she explains: “When we talk to our members and ask them what they’re looking for, I think continuously it’s really basic things, like ‘How do I apply for grants?’ ‘How do I know where to go to get tax help?’ ‘How do I negotiate?'”

Spaceus operates through a monthly membership fee, and offers what Shakespear calls a “low-risk way for artists to start.”

Spaceus will stay put in Harvard through Jan. 15, when a more permanent tenant will move into the space. It also has an annex at 11 First St. in East Cambridge.

“We see Spaceus as one way to help keep cities like Cambridge creative,” Co-founder Stephanie Lee told Scout in an email. “When artists have space to create in the city, everyone benefits. Artists bring diverse communities together and create space to question the status quo. We started Spaceus because we believe that Cambridge is at its strongest when its artists are supported and empowered.”


Photo courtesy of Spaceus.