Enter the new GrubStreet Writing Center building at the Seaport and you’ll be greeted by the sight of colorful titles on display in a bookstore on the ground floor. Nearby is a cafe which has not yet opened, but from the windows you can see the waterfront, dotted with boats. Go upstairs to see the space’s iconic red typewriter, on display next to a sign that says ‘Grubbies, invade your seaport’. There are classrooms of different sizes, suitable for small seminars or a gathering of a few. Nooks and crannies are ideal for writers who want to get together for work or just spend a few moments alone.
This is the new location of GrubStreet. Originally based on Boylston Street, in the heart of Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, the creative writing incubator moved to the southeast side of the 50 Liberty Drive building, facing the marina and the Institute of Contemporary Art. . GrubStreet is a writing center that offers workshops, seminars, consultations and more to anyone who chooses to use its services, with or without membership. They also offer scholarships to make their programs more accessible to the public. Although GrubStreet will not be holding a grand opening, some classes are starting to take place in person.
Chief Executive Officer Eve Bridburg said that while GrubStreet faced increasing pressure in its old location, it became clear that a change was needed. âWe are a mid-sized, non-profit arts organization. In our history we’ve moved probably every five to six years and we’ve become increasingly concerned about the rising cost of rents in Boston, âsaid Bridburg. “Our building was sold and the new owner made it clear that we were not going to have a house at the end of our lease.” She added that GrubStreet had grown considerably, no longer being the “small, quaint, non-profit with a few people coming in and going out” that it used to be, and the owners weren’t as interested in housing them. . âWe really started to think that we either had to buy our own building or partner with another organization, or do something drastically different, if we’re going to stay in Boston, which we felt and felt really important. “
As of 2018, GrubStreet launched an $ 8 million fundraising campaign, which mobilized over 300 people and foundations. Donations ranged from $ 5 million to $ 2.5 million. Part of the money came from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, while the Calderwood Charitable Foundation made the main donation of $ 2.5 million. Bridburg anticipates that GrubStreet will remain in the seaport space for some time, as they have a 35-year lease.
The building on Liberty Drive has a number of new features. The bookstore owned by Porter Square Books opened this month. Some bookcases are “Harry Potter,” according to Merge Architects founder Beth Whittaker, and can rotate to create more space. A new cafÃ© will offer coffee, breakfast and lunch, and potentially wine and draft beer. Bridburg said the GrubStreet team had been considering having a cafe and bookstore for some time, to create a writers-friendly literary home. The ground floor includes a performance space with a circular stage, accessible by a ramp, and it will be open to readings and potentially film festivals. On the second floor, there are classrooms, a kitchen for staff and student use, a podcast studio, a common area, and plenty of meeting places. While the upstairs space is reserved for students, instructors and GrubStreet guests, the cafe and bookstore will be open to the public. Whittaker said his intention was to make the design warm, accessible and modern.
âOur work is always contemporary,â said Whittaker. âWe knew they wanted to have this new cool space, but it was also very important that it looked like GrubStreet and their community, which is very down to earth, very diverse, natural. We looked at materials that were very simple, like wood and concrete, and warm. “
David Sandberg, owner of Porter Square Books, said GrubStreet’s mission to cut across lines of race, ethnicity and economy resonated with him, and he hopes that by working together they will foster a space that supports people’s creativity. Literary artist, instructor and board member Regie Gibson said he admires the center’s egalitarian approach and hopes it will continue to empower emerging writers.
“What GrubStreet does is it takes novices, the ones who feel like they have no voice, and they have to find the many voices that they actually have, but also bring them into a space. where they can feel more confident in bringing those voices to other people, “Gibson said. He added,” It allows for the exchange of ideas through the story, through the narrative. And I think. that we need a lot more. I love the promotion of literary citizenship, the idea that there is one thing we owe each other. And one of the things we owe each other to others is to listen, so I appreciate that.