Thursday, April 18, 2024

The Foundry’s Community Hall has begun to attract visitors during a monthlong soft opening. (Photo: Alex Delesio)

After an unofficial, monthlong soft launch, East Cambridge’s much-anticipated arts and culture venue The Foundry appears fully geared up for its opening celebration event Saturday. The celebration was planned initially for Sept. 10 but rescheduled after construction and supply delays.

These weren’t the only delays The Foundry has faced. The space is the result of more than a decade of preparations. The 132-year-old building, which was acquired by the city back in 2012 as part of a development deal with Alexandria Real Estate, completed its reconstruction and renovation this year. The Foundry team had intended to start the last phase of construction in 2020. As the pandemic hit, it scaled back community outreach with “everyone kind of needing to tend to their own houses,” said Diana Navarrete-Rackauckas, executive director of The Foundry Consortium.

The building opened Sept. 12. The delay “allowed us to make more connections with local organizations, schools and residents now that they’re all in full swing for the fall season,” Foundry digital communications fellow Olivia Fone said.

The highlight for Navarrete-Rackauckas during this first month has been meeting with community groups and neighbors. One older visitor told Navarrete-Rackauckas that his first job as a young adult had been at the Foundry building. “So much of the history that is embodied in this building is embodied in the community,” she said.

The Foundry’s early in Community Hall construction. (Photo: Olivia Fone)

The biggest challenge has been “bringing enough people together to prove to [decision-makers] that this was a space worth saving for this type of civic engagement,” Navarrete-Rackauckas said. Though long-term sustainability is a perennial concern for arts spaces, the building’s model is intended to be self-sufficient. Newmark, on behalf of The Foundry, markets and rents out office space on the second and third floors of the building. This lets donations go directly toward subsidizing the building’s sliding-scale programs, Fone said.

The consortium wants interdisciplinary collaboration in the “Steam” fields of science, technology, engineering, the arts and math. Holding science classes in the same building as arts workshops, increases the possibility for cross-registration and breaks down “some of those access to participant barriers that happen for a lot of organizations,” Navarrete-Rackauckas said. Dance groups might take an interest in cooking classes after a tour of the facility’s kitchen, for instance. She wants to see people “light up at the possibility of doing something outside of what they already do.”

The Foundry staff is led by Diana Navarrete-Rackauckas, second from left. (Photo: Alex Delesio)

It has been gratifying for the team to finally see people in the space, hanging out as they might in a neighborhood coffee shop – a real one of which is set to be opened in the space by the end of 2022. “No one will tell them to leave,” Navarrete-Rackauckas said. “We want this to feel like this is a space for them.”

There’s a clear appetite for this type of cross-disciplinary programming, Navarrete-Rackauckas said, with a “major cultural shift [in the past couple of years] of giving your creative endeavors the same weight as your career aspirations.”

Some Foundry spaces available to the public. (Photos: Olivia Fone)

The opening ceremony is set for 11 a.m. Saturday outside 101 Rogers St., East Cambridge. Afterward will come tours of the maker spaces, dance lessons, a vendor fair, a listening party with local artist Elisa Hamilton’s The Foundry Jukebox, food and live music, a dance party and more offerings from community artists and organizations.

The full event lineup has been posted on The Foundry’s website and Instagram.