Gui Cavalcanti, Artisan’s Asylum
10 Tyler Street
Gui Cavalcanti just wanted to build robots. The only problem was that he didn’t have access to the space or costly equipment needed to build them. The young engineer worked at a Boston-based robot building company and was looking for a way to pursue his passion on his own. Gui’s partner Jenn Martinez, a costume designer, faced a similar logistical problem with her own projects. “We both had a desire to create and we needed a dedicated space and heavy duty tools,” says Gui. “And we needed a team of people with different abilities who could collaborate.” So they hatched a plan. Why not establish an affordable space where artisans have access to tools and equipment as well as to each other’s help and advice? “We wanted to create a studio where anybody can come in to do any craft they wanted, within an inspiring and supportive environment.” The idea for Artisan’s Asylum, Inc, was born.
Artisan’s Asylum co-founder and president Gui Cavalcanti in the studio
Their first step was to figure out where they wanted to locate their studio. Somerville was the obvious choice. With the second highest number of artists per capita in the US (behind Manhattan, NY), Somerville has a vibrant, creative, and diverse community. “It’s the perfect place where there are college students, engineer geek types, and the whole population likes making stuff,” says Gui. Logistically, Somerville also made the most sense. The city’s mix of urban and suburban feel, low rents, small business support, and the right zoning laws were just what they needed for their project. “Somerville is the only city in the area that is very excited about mixing factory, commercial, and residential space together,” says Gui.
Building a six-legged robot that climbs walls and scales fences? No problem. Finding studio space for 80 artisans? Not so simple. But their hard work and determination, Gui and his team were able to locate a 9,000 square foot space on Joy Street. Soon they were looking to expand to something larger. Luckily, OSPCD staff contacted Gui and offered to help Artisan’s Asylum find their current 25,000 square foot location on 13 Tyler Street. “When starting and running a business, it can be hard to figure out where to go to get help. OSPCD has been really helpful in providing the guidance we needed. They’ve been invested in our success.” He added, “And they’re wonderful people.”
The inside of Artisan’s Asylum’s former 9,000 square foot studio on Joy Street. They’ve recently moved to a 25,000 square foot space on Tyler Street.
Since its founding in 2010, Artisan’s Asylum has become a haven for anyone with a creative mind. It offers 80 low-rent workspaces, access to necessary equipment—including metal machining, electrical fabrication, welding, woodworking, sewing & fiber arts, robotics, bicycle building and repair, and screenprinting—as well as classes offered by resident artisans to community members. Demand for rent spaces from artisans has been high, they’ve been a big hit with local residents and visitors. “People get really excited when they hear about us, saying, “This is really cool!” says Molly Rubenstein, Artisan Asylum’s outreach coordinator. “They want to know: who are you, what do you do, and how can we get involved?” Gui, who recently used the studio space to build giant 15 foot tall floating rubber ducks from which to watch the fireworks, would like to expand to 40,000 square feet and continue making a big impact on the community. “I see us becoming a patron of the arts and small businesses in Somerville, especially with arts and manufacturing. I hope that we can become a huge driving force in Somerville as we continue to develop.”
An Artisan’s Asylum member teaching a class to local community members
Students taking part in metalworking and sewing classes