Center City Getting Coworking Space for Cultural VenturesBy Paula Fuchsberg |
Fittingly just a block from Center City’s Avenue of the Arts, a coworking space will open in mid-October that will bring together all kinds of artistic enterprises in a shared office environment where they can “brainstorm, socialize and collaborate.”
That’s the vision laid out by CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia, a nonprofit that provides management resources to arts and cultural ventures. The debut of its coworking location will give such ventures “one-stop shopping,” said Thaddeus Squire, CultureWorks’ founder and managing director. Through September 30th, it is signing up “Founding Members.”
Among members so far are choreographers and performers, a martial-arts entrepreneur, and communications and design professionals with culture-related clients. Any for-profit or nonprofit cultural enterprise is welcome, though the space is participatory, Squire said, and not for folks who just want an office.
In the cultural world, “the real crisis we see today is everybody’s focused on money and funding,” Squire said, but “we think that’s the wrong paradigm,” and impractical besides. Creative projects “won’t go away” because of a lack of funding, he said; instead, “we should be asking how efficiently we’re providing support services.”
CultureWorks concluded that the only way to deliver such services affordably to individuals and small organizations was to do it in the same space. Having a physical location with amenities is important, Squire said, to allow “a formal and informal exchange of information and knowledge.”
His organization signed a six-year, three-month lease with Goldman Properties at the Philadelphia Building, 1315 Walnut St., on a nearly 5,000-square-foot space where 50 to 60 people at a time can work. Membership fees include such amenities as a conference room, private breakout rooms, WiFi, and a kitchen. Optional extras include a mail meter, copying/printing, and access to a fiscal sponsorship program that could, among other advantages, give a small venture entree to group health insurance.
The space will be staffed 9 to 5 Monday to Friday, when it can also accept walk-ins and guests, but members will have fob entry access at other times. Squire hopes to have “very member-driven” events a couple of times a month, such as professional, informational and social gatherings.
Membership levels are: basic, $45 a month for access three days a month; light, $225 a month for access three days a week; or full, $350 a month for 24/7 access with dedicated workspace. Squire aims to attract 35 to 40 full and light members each plus 100 to 150 basic members.
The project has parallels to IndyHall in Old City. Other shared workspaces exist locally, though Squire noted that some function more as incubators or as “spaces for making,” such as NextFab Studio and Philadelphia Sculpture Gym. Until now, he said, there has been “no space for managing and creating an artistic business.” And in Philadelphia, lots of culture “gets made in the hinterlands, but most of it gets managed within a six-block radius of City Hall,” for there dwell the lawyers, financiers, and others serving the cultural sector’s needs.
CultureWorks’ relationship with IndyHall is “very amicable,” Squire said, but “what we’re putting together is going to have a different vibe.” The space, designed by Metcalfe Architecture & Design, will have concrete floors and contemporary furniture and be “very open and slightly more sophisticated.” Some members will be in second careers or may need to dress more formally when meeting, say, with donors.
Globally, coworking is booming. According to the online magazine Deskmag.com, its Global Coworking Survey 2011/12 found that the movement roughly doubled in size each year since 2006 and now exceeded 1,100 spaces worldwide. It also found that 58 percent of coworkers had transitioned from working at home.
Squire has an “armchair theory” for the boom: There has been “somewhat of a backlash against the isolation that the Internet and our contemporary technology has created.” He cited a parallel rising interest in venture capitalism and entrepreneurship.
CultureWorks’ research found that productivity rose a lot when people coworked, Squire said; “it helped them focus, energized and motivated them.” That matches Deskmag’s findings; its survey even concluded, editor Carsten Foertsch wrote, that “working in a coworking space is better for your health.”
Hidden City Philadelphia will have a home at the new space. “There’s something inspirational about being around other people; there’s a lot of energy,” said Meredith Broussard, a writer/editor for its digital magazine covering the arts, architecture, urban planning and city history.
Megan Wendell provides communications services for arts and culture clients; her Canary Promotion staff and office are in Glenside, but she, too, will be a coworking member. “I was really excited by the idea of having a Center City hub” as a place to connect and meet with others in the cultural community, she said.
Cory Neale, an architect at a firm by day, has a separate artistic practice that includes sound design and composition for theater groups. He looks forward to using the space for administrative needs of his practice, such as marketing. What attracted him was “the ability to have a space of my own but at the same time be in a room with like-minded people,” including people in circles he already interacts with outside. Now, Neale said, they’ll “get to work together in the same room.”
Photo c/o Metcalfe Architecture & Designblog comments powered by Disqus