Creator Square is an urban revitalization, economic development, and job skills transfer program originated by Springboard Principal Paul Rosenblatt AIA and developed with economic consultant Donald Bonk, a Johnstown native. It is an artisan residency program based in the historic, rust belt community of Johnstown, PA, located one hour southeast of Pittsburgh. The goal of Creator Square is to bring skilled ‘makers’ to live/work studios at the city’s downtown epicenter; mix them with local makers, manufacturers and educational institutions; and connect Johnstown’s creative community, industrial infrastructure, and entrepreneurial activity.
Members of the residency will receive national recognition, affordable live/work housing, access to new economy manufacturing equipment, skill transfer via collaborative work, career development guidance, teaching opportunities, and a financial stipend. Creator Square is a means for makers to create and sell their products nationally, a place for makers to teach and learn, and an opportunity to collaborate with local manufacturers on new ideas and products.
Creator Square is at the intersection between global thought and local initiative, a local application of the emerging global trends in both the collaborative economy and the maker movement.
Like many rust belt cities, Johnstown is populated with majestic historic buildings in various stages of vacancy. In Spring 2014, Springboard Design began work with the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies and students from Carnegie Mellon University to identify an underused building for a pilot artisan-residency program. The three-story Parkview Building was selected, purchased, renamed the Johnstown Creator Center (JCC) and is being adapted into an artisan studio building with four residential units, a common kitchen/gathering space, public gallery, and a shared workshop equipped with machinery for interdisciplinary craft, small batch manufacturing, and next-gen economic development.
While most architectural projects begin with an established program, Creator Square is still in its infancy. The JCC is the center of an artisan/maker residency program where the participants share amenities to design and make products for their existing businesses. In addition to cultivating this ‘making’ economy and invigorating downtown Johnstown with new enterprise, another key tenet of the program is the active skills transfer between resident makers and the local community. This includes current and past workers in the defense related manufacturing sector. While having the opportunity to build their businesses, the makers in-residence – dubbed ‘Creative Masters’ – will also offer classes and workshops in their specialties in concert with local area colleges and other organizations. The program is designed to partner makers with local manufacturers and businesses, creating a supply chain of salvaged, reused, or scrap materials for their work.
For more information, check out www.creatorsquarejohnstown.com.
(Photo Credit for town hall meeting: Todd Berkey – The Tribune Democrat)