Foundry gets a four-hour open house Saturday to tout community arts option

Inside the massive Foundry space at 101 Rogers St., East Cambridge, is this walkway with inset LEDs. (Photos courtesy Anna Schindelar via FLUX.Boston)
Inside the massive Foundry space at 101 Rogers St., East Cambridge, is this walkway with inset LEDs. (Photo courtesy Anna Schindelar via FLUX.Boston)

The Foundry finally opens Saturday – for four hours, just long enough to make the argument that the city-owned building should be open regularly and permanently as a community arts space.

The event is called “The Foundry Equation” after the idea that “art plus community equals renewal,” said organizer Ilan Levy, an East Cambridge resident and host of an interview and advocacy show called “The Foundry” airing Tuesdays on Cambridge Community Television’s Channel 9. The curator of the event is Anna Schindelar, art director at Kendall Square’s Voltage Coffee & Art, and Lucy Valena, Voltage’s founder, is another organizer.

“There’s been interest in using this space to support local artists for some time. This event is a one-day solution to the Foundry Equation,” Valena said. “It’s a chance to show all the cool stuff that could be happening in this neighborhood. People could be making really great art, regularly, in Kendall Square.”

The open house is presented by local art advocates FLUX. Boston, Opus Affair, Voltage and Yes.Oui.Si., a Boston gallery described as “a multi-sensory art exhibition space.” It is to feature contemporary and children’s art, live music and improv performances designed to showcase the Foundry’s potential as a neighborhood landmark.

“A world of possibilities”

The Foundry Works Building, a 52,000-square-foot structure of former manufacturing space at 101 Rogers St., was given the city in January 2012 as part of the rezoning that let Alexandria Real Estate Equities build its lab and office space tall and dense on a 15-acre campus along Binney Street. As part of the deal, 10,000 square feet of the Foundry is set aside for community use – which has yet to be defined.

The City Council has been grappling with how to use the building since June 2012, and in February took the rare step of setting a time limit on how long City Manager Robert W. Healy had to respond with answers on the possibilities and needs of the building from real estate and engineering perspectives. At the end of April councillors agreed to spend $40,000 on a study recommended by Healy.

“Having access to such a large arts space in the city opens up a world of possibilities. It would create an environment that promotes collaboration, skill-sharing and the exchange of ideas. The Foundry would be an invaluable resource for the Cambridge community,” said Liz Devlin, independent curator and founder of FLUX. Boston.

First for the city, though, comes the findings of the study, while impatient residents pursue pinning down what they see as the best use for the building. It is also being eyed by the business community as a chance for the kind of incubator space being pushed out of Kendall Square by larger companies that can pay higher rents, and many say the uses can co-exist.

“We’re not talking about an extra studio in an Allston basement. We are talking about 52,000 square feet,” said Devlin, imagining its use as art space. “More than an acre.”

Outpouring of support

A full list of participants wasn’t available Tuesday, but Devlin was able to name such contributors as The Cambridge Art Association, Lilypad and Blanc Gallery as well as many from outside the city: the Sloane Merrill Gallery, 17 Cox, Turning Art, the Lincoln Arts Project and The Hallway Gallery.

“We didn’t know how it would go, but I have to say the outpouring of support has been unreal,” Devlin said. “It melts my ice-queen heart to see so many local art enthusiasts stepping up to lend their art, time and love to this endeavor.”

Drawing large numbers to the open house will help create “a dialogue about what they want to see happen to this space,” Schindelar said. “We’re just providing an option.”

The Foundry Equation is free and open to residents, arts enthusiasts and the community at large from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Its website is here; organizers are encouraging use of the hashtag  #thefoundryequation.

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