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The Hive Makerspace Comes to Downtown Greenfield

GREENFIELD — After the World Eye Bookstore at 156 Main St. in downtown Greenfield moved down the street, the storefront sat empty for almost two years before former landlord Robert Cohn decided to take a new tack to find an appropriate tenant for the 5,600-square-foot space. He contacted local creatives to find out what might be an exciting contribution to the creative economy of downtown Greenfield, and artists and artisans from myriad disciplines suggested that a makerspace could be an economic driver and help create a destination downtown. So Cohn moved forward with finding the team to put such a plan in place, and the Hive was born.

Rachael Katz and Adrienne LaPierre are the project leads working to implement the vision of a state-of-the-art public makerspace. Katz, the owner of the Greenfield Gallery just across the street, is the primary technical consultant for the Hive, with experience that combines the skills of a mechanical engineer with the talents of an artist. She is the sculptor behind the Beatrice the Bee project, the largest public art project ever undertaken in downtown Greenfield, in which six painted bees will be placed around town in celebration of Bee Fest in May 2020. LaPierre, who will be the executive director of the facility, is an educational technology consultant who has spent the past five years working within the Brattleboro public school system to develop innovative ways to integrate makerspace activities and engineering design into the elementary- and middle-school curriculum. They are working with a small, dedicated team of advisors and volunteers to bring the Hive to life. They have applied for a planning grant and have initiated fundraising efforts to cover costs for the first year of development.

The name of the Hive is a tribute to the long-standing legacy that Greenfield holds in the world of beekeeping. In the mid-1800’s, Lorenzo Langstroth invented what has come to be known as the traditional beekeeper’s hive, the Langstroth Hive. Langstroth served as the pastor of the Second Congregational Church on Bank Row, and the church honors his contributions at its annual Bee Fest.

Makerspaces are membership-based community workshops with tools. They combine manufacturing equipment, community, and education for the purposes of enabling members to design, prototype, and produce manufactured works that wouldn’t be possible to create with the resources available to individuals working alone. Makerspaces represent the democratization of design, engineering, and fabrication. They are a fairly new phenomenon, but are beginning to produce projects with significant national impacts.

Traditional crafts will have a home, with equipment like industrial sewing machines, a leather stitching machine, and a community loom. Traditional artisans will stand side by side with engineers operating 3D printers, laser cutters, and CNC machines. Performing artists may design fabric for costumes, and props for plays can be crafted at the same time prototypes for new products created by local innovators and entrepreneurs take shape.

“I’m delighted to support this exciting project that I see contributing to the community in several ways,” said the building’s new owner, Timothy Grader of Holyoke Property Management, who has given the team a reduced rent to leave them time to put all the pieces together to fit out the space. “First, there’s a strong educational component that will provide important job training and project creation on site. Second, the Hive will offer an outlet for creativity and collective expressiveness. Third, it will make a positive contribution to the local economy, thus strengthening downtown Greenfield and beyond. And finally, this resource will build community in an honest, holistic fashion — just what Greenfield needs.”

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