Nearly 10 years ago Kristen Holler began her relationship with the Albany Barn as an intern while she was a junior in college. Holler received a friend request on Myspace from the organization and read about the makers’ space that allows artists to live and create in Albany’s Arbor Hill while giving back to the community. She met with Jeff Mirel, founder of the Albany Barn, for three hours and was sold. She worked as an intern coordinator and served on the board. Now she’s the executive director who not only oversaw the opening of the Albany Barn but now the opening the Electric City Barn in Schenectady’s Hamilton Hill.
It means a lot to Holler, who preaches a mantra of “give where you live,” as she grew up in Schenectady.
If the Electric City Barn works as intended, it will do for a slew of local makers what her time as an intern for the Albany Barn did for her–give them the experience and tools they need to build their career.
In late October, the Electric City Barn opened in what was once the home to The Craig Street Boys and Girls Club. The building is the focal point of $19.5 million Hillside View development that will see Boston-based community builders construct 25 studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Hillside View is just one of a few rehabilitation and development projects that have cropped up in the blighted neighborhood.
The Barn will hopefully add to the spirit of creation and renewal by offering makers the chance to realize their projects with the facility’s textile studio, metal shop, woodworking shop, metal shop, 3D printing lab and electronics lab. Makers will be able to pitch their project to members of the Barn, who will in turn refine the plan and figure out ways to use the project to train others on various crafting and production jobs.
Holler explains that if a local fashion designer wants to launch a new line they could come to The Barn and develop a production plan. They would then involve locals who are interested in learning to sew or work with textiles in other ways. The designer would then train a workforce in how to assembly their clothes.
Holler said that in the days since opening, a few visitors have come in with projects they’d like to complete in the space.
“They come in and say ‘I’ve always wanted to do x or y! I’ve had this idea and I could actually do that here,” said Holler.
There are also plans to recycle and reuse certain plastics and textiles to be used in various creative projects.
Holler expects there will be plenty of crossover between the Albany and Schenectady Barns. “Some of our Albany residents have visited here and saw the studios and said, “Hey, I could use that!”
Holler said she recalls growing up that the Capital Region was very siloed. “I grew up in Schenectady and I might hear about something cool in Troy but I wouldn’t necessarily go there. That was a Troy thing. And now I’m everywhere all the time. These cool things are a Capital Region thing. We need to get people to explore what this area has to offer. I think this will help do that.”
Memberships start at $50 a month and there are also grants available to fund the projects of struggling artists.