For 24 years Side Street Projects (SSP) has both been run by and has supported visual artists who choose to work in communities instead of galleries. In addition to many artistic installations in the community itself, SSP’s artist-led youth education program teaches students the use of tools through design and fabrication. Like SSP itself, this program is unique in that it is entirely mobile: it is housed in buses and trailers and serves more than 4000 PUSD students per year. SSP also provides support services for local artists, including equipment rental for low-income artists and a podcast series about the business of being an artist.
In 2016, PCF gave a $25,000 grant to Side Street Projects to help them with a unique project – the creation of community artistic space using two converted shipping containers (pictured below). The two containers lock together to make a versatile fabrication/classroom/community space when their sides are open. When closed they become secure storage. Each container can function independently, but when they are together they become a 720 square foot space. The staff and artists of SSP lovingly refer to the distinctive setup as the “big thing.”
“The ‘big thing’ has totally revolutionized what we are able to do on-site,” said Side Street Project Executive Director Emily Hopkins. “Its ability to unfold and open and connect is fully within the mobile ethos of Side Street Projects, while giving us the stability and the space of a building. One side houses the wood shop where we cut all of the wood for the Woodworking Bus. It is also available to the community through our equipment co-op. The ‘community’ side is a permanent classroom for the free community programming that we offer every Saturday. When both sides are connected we can host a large workshop or community gathering.”
(Pictured above are two students working on a yarn-based art project in the new space with help from Emily Hopkins.)