Oct 1, 201401:34 AMArt Beat
The walls are checkered with haphazardly hung paintings, sketches, drawings, photographs, installations and other colorful works imbued with the passion of their creators. The floors creak with the life of budding artists sweating in their studios over their creations-in-progress, students learning photography, cellists training in the parlor.
Two years ago, it was an abandoned Vietnamese kitchen in Harrisburg’s Olde Uptown neighborhood, a row home fast becoming a pale shadow of the stately property it once was.
In 2012, Liz Laribee, who spearheaded The MakeSpace collective project, was working as the events coordinator at the Midtown Scholar while searching out a location for a proper studio in which to create her own art.
With the help of her landlord, WCI Partners, Laribee found the perfect location in this abandoned property. And with the help of her equally art-enthused partners, Catherine Rios, Amanda Owens and a number of others, she spent a month repurposing the space as the region’s grass-roots arts incubator.
By Rios’ recollection, “The property would either have to be incinerated or handed over to artists.” Rios was a well-chosen partner in the project, as she knows a thing or two about art – she has taught at Penn State Harrisburg for 12 years and serves as the chair of its communications department.
This is not simply a static gallery, though during 3rd in the Burg, the space does serve as such. Instead, the three floors and seven studios within serve as active workspaces for artists to create and collaborate. Sometimes they work together, and exciting or unexpected works emerge. Other times the muse of solitude folds in on itself and inspired works spill forth.
Classes and performances are held here for the public, studio space is for rent and, as Laribee says, “The space itself has become its own art project.”
To give you a taste of the kind of work being done here, you should know that a full wall of one room is papered with aged pages of books donated by The Midtown Scholar Bookstore. A rickety and uneven room behind the kitchen, one that leaks light from the outside, has become an artist’s overflow, painted entirely – floor, ceiling and all walls – in black and white frenetic images.
Expertly imagined, The MakeSpace was created with cautious intent and a carefully chosen mission statement: “An initiative to connect the creative sector of Harrisburg with the tools necessary to begin and complete projects.”
To this end, Rios explains that while funding for the arts exists for works at their inception and monetary awards exist upon a work’s completion, works in progress often suffer from lack of proper and ongoing funding and support. The MakeSpace aims to address that problem for its artists in residence, of which there are currently nine, by offering up reduced-cost studio space and a creative community in-progress to facilitate the completion of projects.
“The MakeSpace is meant to facilitate,” says Laribee. And that is exactly what it does.
It’s been two years since its inception, and The MakeSpace has ensconced itself in Harrisburg’s arts scene, poised to fuel the region’s artistic renaissance.
For more information, visit hbgmakespace.com.