August 9, 2017

Pop In Space Comes to Palmer Square, An Arts Council-lead Collaboration

SEW EASY: Alexa Cavalli of Montgomery works on an apron at the Pop In Space at 10 Hulfish Street. Ms. Cavalli is no newcomer to sewing, having even made a headband for her cat, but she was glad to exercise her skills in textiles on Monday.

Maria Evans, artistic director for the Arts Council of Princeton, had long had plans to host a makerspace — a collaborative workshop for all manner of tinkering, building, and fixing, the likes of which have been appearing in ever-increasing numbers across the country for roughly the past decade. Earlier this year, when the Arts Council was offered a large space in the Princeton Shopping Center, her hopes were on the cusp of realization; the large space, less than two miles from downtown Princeton, would be an ideal satellite location. It came as a disappointment, then, when the lease fell through. But shortly thereafter, in early June, Palmer Square offered the Arts Council free use of 10 Hulfish Street, immediately across the street from Halo Pub, and the former location of Kate Spade.

The modest footprint of this location was too small for a full-fledged makerspace, but the location itself could hardly be better, so Ms. Evans shifted gears and got to work planning for a multi-purpose pop-up space, reaching out to jaZams, Sustainable Princeton, the Princeton Public Library, the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton University to provide a wide variety of activities and programs for the public. By July 10, the Pop In Space was up and running.

The Pop In Space, which is just around the corner from the Princeton “Energy Playground” Parklet (itself a collaboration between the Arts Council and local businesses and nonprofits), is simple and well-lit, with large wooden tables in the main room, and elegant recessed shelving throughout for storing materials and displaying work. On Monday, Ms. Evans led a workshop entitled “Sew Easy.” Locals and passersby between the ages of 4 and 70 gathered there, taking turns using the four sewing machines. The participants had a wide range of ability, and in the spirit of the makerspaces that inspired the Pop In Space, Ms. Evans opted to lead the workshop with a light touch, facilitating whatever the participants wanted to make. For the beginners who attended, she recommended making pillowcases, but was glad to oblige when the novices had their own plans: “There was a young boy who came in and made a pouch because he said he needed something to carry his money in. So he just cut out this corduroy pouch and sewed it together, and that was really cool,” she said.

It is now host to five to seven events per week, covering a diversity of topics from journaling to card-making to woodworking. The Watershed Association is holding a recurring event at the Pop In Space called “WOW (Wonders of Water!)” — a hands-on series of demonstrations and activities for children and adults centered on water quality and sustainable water use. “It’s the epitome of collaboration,” Ms. Evans says of the Pop In Space programming.

The Art Council’s lease at the Pop In Space runs through August 31, after which it may or may not be extended. Ms. Evans is pleased with the response from the community and hopes that the space can continue into the fall. Christine Symington, program director of Sustainable Princeton, echoes her sentiments. Their bike repair workshop has been one of the Pop In Space’s most popular events so far, and Ms. Symington says her organization would like to be able to put such programs together on a regular basis — a possibility that a more permanent location would more readily afford them.

Only time will tell if that will be a possibility. For now, those wishing to pop in can do so at any of the scheduled workshops. Workshops are free and open to the public, and no advance registration is required. To find out more, visit: