BRICK Coworkshop

Brick Coworkshop: An Innovative Take on Creating and Using Art in the Community

Written by: Liam Kantor and Allison Burke

From the outside, the Brick Coworkshop in Holyoke, Massachusetts is not much to marvel at; the communal workspace that “Brick” (as its members lovingly refer to it) provides resides in the second floor of an old, renovated industrial building made of stained red brick and old wood.  But on the inside, the one-was factory has been turned into an expansive space for artists to come together and work in the same place that some may live.  Each of the massive rooms that makes up Brick contains a multitude of tools and resources for a plethora of artists, including computers for their design team, saws for their woodwork, and a room dedicated just to glasswork.

The two full-time members of Brick that we spoke to, Jake Horsey and Dan Battat, are quintessential up-and-comers.  Fresh out of Hampshire College having studied Design and Engineering, the two simply could not having bigger ambitions for Brick and the work that it could do for Holyoke as a whole.  On one hand, Brick brings in the majority of its funding from the projects that the Design and Engineering team works on, but that income is then used to help fund other projects that any of the different groups would like to work on.  Currently, Brick is using those funds to give art classes to public high school students in Holyoke, including bringing in students for a workshop on glasswork held by Dan.  But that money may be used for other things such as covering an artist’s rent while they are pursuing a project at Brick.Dan Battat in his workshop at Brick

But when asked about the art scene in Holyoke, the two confessed, “We didn’t know it existed”.  Originally, the location for Brick Coworkshop was chosen because of its proximity to Hampshire College and how cheap a large workspace was.  But after opening up shop in Holyoke and working directly next to other artists in the Holyoke Creative Arts Center right downstairs and many more artists simply across the canal, Dan and Jake quickly discovered that what had originally drawn them to Holyoke had also drawn many other young artists on top of the existing number of older artists.

While Brick has its own ways of making money to support its ventures, it still functions mainly as a nonprofit.  However, Jake was very clear that Brick’s goals and projects were independent from their funding: “We say, ‘hey, if you give us x amount of money, we can finish this project in one year, but even if you don’t, we’ll still work on it and finish it, even if it takes us four years’ “.  And it is within that philosophy that lies the true nature of Brick Coworkshop — helping people no matter what.  From helping public school students to discover art, to building infrastructure for parks, to fostering creativity and collaboration, Brick and its members make it their job to provide an environment that allows for progress.One of the workshop spaces at Brick

Brick workshop does not wish to stop there, however.  They are currently working to add numerous more workshops to their space with more tools to accommodate more artists along with renovating parts of the outside and entrance to allow them to host community events by either artists or the Holyoke government.  And this is just a small view of what Brick is working on.  Each of the full-time artists, totalling ten now, has their own personal projects and community based projects, on top of the projects by other artists that Brick hosts.

However, Jake and Dan both acknowledge that they walk a fine line.  While Brick’s communal workspace is a novel idea, it is extremely young for the size it has grown to, and in the process the creators have risked pushing other artists out or forcing Brick’s creative method onto them.  And while no problems have arisen so far, Brick takes special care to make sure that the new artists coming into Holyoke through them mesh well with the older established artists who may have a different way of doing things.  By the end of the year, Jake and Dan hope that Brick will be fully organized and staffed, and can begin to seek bigger funding and take on more projects.  Where Brick may end up, even the founders do not know.  But one thing is for sure; it will certainly be an exciting ride for everyone in Holyoke, whether they are an artist or not.

Some of Dan’s glass pieces which he collaborates with another artist to turn into pendants.