Last summer Charles Adler hosted a one month pop-up creative space in an old meat freezer in Fulton Market, called Center for Lost Arts.
The Kickstarter cofounder invited 50 friends to work in the space, sold access to anyone else for $200 and raised $11,000 in funds to fund the project. Members manufactured coffee storage vessels, 3D printed interlocking blocks and built a boat, among other projects.
By the end of the month people were asking if he was planning to keep the space open. To Adler, that was a signal he needed to create something bigger than a pop-up.
This week he opened a permanent Center for Lost Arts in an old storage warehouse on Goose Island, located at 909 W. Bliss Street. Though there’s been an uptick in coworking spaces in the city recently, Adler sees this as a combination “arts residency, a tech incubator and a civic space,” a place to foster the “accidental entrepreneur.” Center for Lost Arts will also serve as a resource for independent makers and large institutions to come together to share ideas, collaborate, and create…well, he’s not sure exactly what yet.
“The space is a platform, much like Kickstarter is a platform,” he said. “I don’t know what people are going to make.”
But that’s sorta the point: “The [intention] of the space is a potpourri…of creative people,” he added. “And we’ll just see what happens.”
The facility itself includes a 10,000 square foot workspace, loading dock, room for a gallery show and fiber Internet provided by Comcast, who’s a sponsor of the space. Available tools include circular saws, a drill press, screen printing, soldering stations, 3D printers, laser cutters and sewing machines. Beyond materials, he hopes to have classes on how to use machinery, member-led workshops and community discussions about topics in entrepreneurship and tech, such as the changing nature of venture capital.
Adler purposefully opened the space with minimal development and decoration, allowing members to define the space according to what they create.
“Why are we in a space that is as raw as this?” he said. “We want to be broad and experimental and have the flexibility so we can discover but also empower the right kind of people, those independent creatives, those brave folks who are doing the brave act of something genuine.”
So far he’s signed up approximately 50 members, including some holdovers from last year, ranging from artists to entrepreneurs, from woodworkers to musicians, he said. Wabash Lights, for example, is working out of the space to create an app for the next iteration of their installation.
There are flexible membership options, including nights and weekends only, which start at $80 per month. Membership is month-to-month to accommodate side hustles and standalone projects. For example, one member is a commercial artist with a commission, and she’ll only be using the space for two months.
“I want to be able to give her access for two months, and I don’t want to waste her money or time over the next couple months,” said Adler. “So I think that creates a good bond with the community and a good user experience.”
Center for Lost Arts is funded by angel investors and sponsors, but eventually he wants to sustain the space through memberships, events, workshops and other value-adds that he believes will become apparent as the space fills up. He’s hired six staff members to maintain the space and, as more people come on board, facilitate connections between members. Adler is also partnering with local organizations and universities such as the Experimental Sound Station and the School of the Art Institute to bring creatives from across the city to the space.
We’re going through this beautiful renaissance where we are excited about creative
Though Adler has been based in Chicago for several years, in the future he’d like to see Center for Lost Arts spread across the country. He said Chicago, however, “feels like the right place to start.”
“We’re going through this beautiful renaissance where we are excited about creatives and creative work,” he said. “Whether its food, coffee, beer, furniture, graphic design or startups, all of that stuff is happening. The city is economically strong, but real estate-wise fairly cheap. I can have the funding I want to have.”
“This is about pushing that test a little bit more, controlling it more so there’s a character to the space we’re developing,” he said. “That’s the important thing. That’s the marathon.”
Step inside the Center for the Lost Arts.