Harvard welcomes Artisan’s Asylum, local arts collaborative, to Allston

DATE:  June 15, 2020     CATEGORIES:  Blog, Community, COVID-19, News, Outreach, Volunteering

Nonprofit will use Allston property to produce protective gowns for front line workers


Sal Mancini, a fine woodworker and Artisan’s Wood Shop Lead, takes a pause from building layout and work tables for gown production at 100 Holton Street.

(Harvard Community Affairs, Allston) Harvard University today welcomed Artisan’s Asylum, a local nonprofit arts collaborative, to Allston, where it will continue its efforts to create Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) gowns.  The gowns will be used in non-surgical settings among a variety of users including dentists, hospitals and even childcare centers. 

Artisan’s Asylum, currently based in Somerville just a short distance from Harvard Yard, is a well-known maker space, an inclusive refuge for teaching, learning and practice of fabrication. It rents studio space and maintains workshops for artisans with a range of different specialties and interests including woodworking, jewelry, and digital fabrication.

When COVID-19 initially shut down many businesses and organizations across Massachusetts, Artisan’s Asylum’s members and volunteers began working to do what they do best – experiment, innovate and make. The organization has already produced more than 11,000 gowns, as well as face shields and mask-making tools. However, the 3,500 sf Harvard owned property at 100 Holton Street in Allston will allow for Artisan’s Asylum to continue its PPE production, while also allowing members to begin using the Somerville location again as the Commonwealth enters Phase II of its reopening plan.

As one of many ways Harvard is supporting response to the pandemic, the agreement enables the Artisan’s Asylum to transition production facilities to Allston, and immediately scale up, and expand, its PPE production capabilities. It hopes to shift its focus exclusively to gowns and aims to produce 30,000 additional gowns over the coming months.

Harvard University has made 3,500sf. of workspace available to Artisan’s Asylum for the production of protective gowns from June to September 2020.

“Harvard is thrilled to welcome the Artisan’s Asylum to the neighborhood, and incredibly excited to help support this important endeavor of contributing to the greater good,” said Meredith Weenick, Harvard’s vice president for campus services. “This new collaboration is in line with Harvard’s ongoing commitment to supporting creative and artistic innovation. We’re excited to see where these new efforts lead.”

Lars Hasselblad Torres, Executive Director of Artisans Asylum, expressed the organization’s enthusiasm for the project. “Support from Harvard University is really encouraging for us,” he said, “To be given shelter by this esteemed institution in a time of need – for us as an organization and for the community as a whole – it’s a remarkable partnership for which I am very grateful. Our team is excited to get to work.”

Artisan’s Asylum is currently working with the Harvard Ed Portal, the City of Boston’s Office of Returning Citizens, the Roxbury Center for Financial Empowerment and a growing list of community partners to recruit temporary employees and volunteers for the new facility. To learn more about Artisan’s Asylum and their PPE efforts, visit https://artisansasylum.com.

“Artisans Asylum has been an important part of the Boston arts scene for years, and we are thrilled that they are establishing a presence in Boston,” said Joyce Linehan, Chief of Policy and Planning for Mayor Walsh. “We are grateful to Harvard for seeing the possibilities, and pleased that Artisans’ first initiative in their new space addresses the community needs in the current crisis.”

Harvard continues to engage in efforts to support Allston’s robust artist community and to bring a diverse mix of uses in the neighborhood. From classes, performances and opportunities at the Harvard Ed Portalthe Ceramics Programand Zone 3, to the newly opened ArtLab and the plan to create a new state-of-the-art facility for the world renowned A.R.T., to the ongoing support of local artists through programs such as the Ed Portal’s Pop Up Portal market and Zone3’s Pop Up Artist Shop, Harvard is committed to ensuring that the arts remain central to the University’s campus in Allston.

Contact: Brigid O’Rourke, Brigid_ORourke@harvard.edu, 617-756-3625