Stephanie Lee and Ellen Shakespear win second prize in the MIT Creative Arts Competition

Stephanie Lee (MArch '19) and Ellen Shakespear (MArch/MCP '19) founded Spaceus to address issues of artistic practice and community engagement in a gentrifying city. Spaceus "rethinks how artists and communities interact and come together outside of galleries and museums. We do this by finding affordable, shared studio spaces for artists in vacant storefronts. We are experimenting with new ways of engaging the broader community with art through workshops, open studios—anything we can dream of together," they explain. Lee and Shakespear won second prize in the sixth annual Creative Arts Competition, organized by Arts at MIT. Spaceus is part of the 2018 DesignX cohort. 

Read more about the arts competition and the winners at Arts at MIT.


Via Arts at MIT's Sharon Lacey:

On April 30, MIT’s yearlong suite of opportunities for student arts entrepreneurs culminated in the sixth annual Creative Arts Competition, a $15,000 prize for the most promising arts-focused startup at the Institute. Eight teams were selected as finalists (from 23 applications) to pitch publicly to a panel of judges and an audience of peers and mentors. Project Daredevil (Hapticomix) won first place ($15000). Spaceus was awarded second place ($7500); Helm received third place ($2500); and Piccles took home the Audience Choice Award ($750).

This year’s teams showed marked diversity in business models and missions. “There were teams who want to preserve cultures, like Helm and Kalani; teams who want to build better networks for creative professionals, like Meanwise or Imaginarium of Technology; those engaged in social innovation, like Spaceus; while others are designing apps and artistic technologies, like Piccles or Project Daredevil” says Wenjia Wang, a second year graduate student in the Technology and Policy Program (TPP) and co-organizer of the Creative Arts Competition. “It was a really great mix,” she says, adding, “It was a first for this competition to have the winning team using assistive technology to solve a creative arts problem.”

Edgar Gamino, a first year MBA student at Sloan and co-organizer of the event, says, “What I love about this competition is that it’s not just about providing seed money for one company, or three companies; it’s about creating this ecosystem of arts entrepreneurship and making people aware that this level of creativity, and the support for it, exists at MIT.” He adds, “Generally, a lot of business students stay away from creative endeavors, when they’re looking for what’s called ‘unicorns’ [startups valued at over $1 billion], because these companies seem to exist only in the tech space. But there can be just as much innovation in the artistic space, or in some hybrid of the two, as we see from this year’s finalists.”

Spaceus transforms vacant storefronts into artists studios, enlivening streets and fostering connections between creatives and neighbors. Team members Ellen Shakespear, a dual-degree candidate (MArch and a Masters of City Planning) in the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, and Stephanie Lee, a Masters student in the MIT Architecture Department, began Spaceus in order to solve three interrelated problems: vacant storefronts due to exorbitant rents, landlords losing out on revenue, and artists working in isolation because they cannot find affordable studio space in many cities.

Spaceus rents shared or dedicated studio space to artists through a subscription-based model. Artists join at the membership level that suits their space and time requirements, and prices vary accordingly, with lower rates for those who only need access on nights and weekends, for example. In order to turn vacant storefronts into beautiful and nimble artist studios, Shakespear and Lee are designing and creating modular furniture, which allows each space to be reconfigured, adapted and replicated easily as they expand to other locations. Their pilot project launches in June in Faneuil Hall, and they plan to expand within Boston and beyond.

-- Story via Sharon Lacey, Arts at MIT, May 2, 2018