Chrysalis to Community: A Year-end Message from Artisan’s Director

DATE:  December 21, 2020     CATEGORIES:  Somerville Media Center Partnership

2021 Will Be Our Year of Transformation

Have you ever experienced a butterfly through its metamorphosis from chrysalis to fully fledged magnificence? You know what a remarkable and miraculous journey it is.

When I joined this incredible community in August of 2018, I quickly learned that we had a steep journey ahead of us. With virtually no money in the bank, two years of unfiled taxes behind us, and a lease expiring in August of 2021 – frankly, the road looked rocky. What we did have, it was clear to me, was a passionate, committed, and talented community of members. Ninety days in, by November it was time to set out.

In reflecting on our journey this year I’m reminded of the truly wondrous metamorphosis of Lepidoptera – the moths and butterflies. Caterpillar, ooze, winged creature. I think that’s an apt metaphor for my time with you, and 2021 will be our chrysalis year.

While there is much unfinished work – and work not yet begun – here are a few highlights from our journey over the last 30 months:

Caterpillar Year, 2020

  • • Our community reached 604 members, from 290 at the end of 2018
  • • Three years of taxes have been filed, our certificate of good standing renewed
  • • Our board developed and delivered a five-year strategic plan for organization growth
  • • As a community we navigated Covid-19 and the complex challenges of adaptation
  • • Seated a new board that brings experience, vision and diversity to our leadership
  • • Signed a 12-year lease for 52,500 SF of space and raised $4.3M to secure, build out, and move into our new home

Looking ahead, I’m deeply optimistic – and confident about our prospects because I have caught a glimpse of what this community can do when we band together. Here’s what I see ahead:

Chrysalis Year, 2021

  • • Complete our capital campaign to secure nearly $5M toward our fit-up and move costs
  • • Complete our move to Allston – design and build out our new home, wrap up operations in Somerville, vacate 10 Tyler Street, shedding as much as we bring with us, making room for the new
  • • Forge new community partnerships that inform our programs and services in Boston
  • • Fully open our new home to the member community by the end of the year

Butterfly Year, 2022

  • • Fully open our new home to the public – complete with celebration(!)
  • • Increase our annual operating budget from $1.4M to $2.2M
  • • Launch new partnerships that deepen creative expression, lifelong learning, and innovative entrepreneurship at the Asylum
  • • Foster creative community collaborations that inspire wonder and delight
  • • Relaunch our education programs and grow our reach throughout the city of Boston
  • • Begin planning for a 6,000 to 10,000 SF expansion of experiential wonder at 176 Lincoln

This is a huge order for an organization that, only 30 months ago, was uncertain about how we could meet our monthly rent obligation. I remember those difficult conversations with staff. For an organization that, in June this year, could have been dealt our death blow by Covid-19. Through tenacity, resilience, and passion for creative community we have pulled through.

And I thank you for that.

One of the wonderful mysteries of metamorphosis is the question of whether the moth retains the memories formed as a caterpillar. During its transformation, the caterpillar’s brain tissue is dissolved by enzymes into a protein soup. Some remarkable research has demonstrated that, nonetheless, the moth (or butterfly) retains its caterpillar memories through metamorphosis – a time when structure dissolves and new forms arise.

And so shall we. Despite these remarkable changes and the growth ahead, Artisan’s Asylum will not lose our essential memories. We will be a different creature but we will not lose the essential code of our organization DNA. We will remain committed to serving our community as an inclusive platform for creative expression, lifelong learning, and innovative entrepreneurship. Our community is our protein soup.

As we embark on our next ascent, I’d like to thank the dozens of volunteers who contributed to member-led PPE production efforts and in other ways support the Asylum. I’d like to recognize the hundreds of donors who have given generously over the last year to ensure our survival. And I’d like to express my gratitude to the Artisan’s Asylum board for your leadership.

And thank you for being a part of our transformation. I can’t wait for 2021 to get started with you! If you haven’t, please consider making a year-end gift toward our journey in 2021.


Wishing you a wonderful holiday season, and my very best hopes for the new year.