Just underneath the Bryn Mawr red line L stop is a small nondescript storefront that hasn’t had much activity, up until the last few months. If you peek into the windows you can see that there has been some elbow grease put into the place and something exciting is on its way! Located at 1116 West Bryn Mawr, the Edgewater Workbench is a new community workshop space for residents, artists, and community members to work on a project, teach or learn a new skill, and gather with other like-minded creative individuals in the hood. Unlike any other business in the neighborhood and perhaps the city, the Edgewater Workbench is a much needed addition to our area. The workbench is thrilled to open its doors to the community of neighbors to share in the love of craftsmanship, restoring household items and fixing up what you already have to make it bright and shiny. Edgewater Workbench aims to alleviate the pains of a living room/studio/woodshop so you can just have a living room. It will be a place to collaborate, share your knowledge, and learn from others.
The dynamic-duo behind the project are partners Ally Brisbin and Stuart Marsh. Both share a passion for projects that involve restoration, preserving the environment and building community. Ally, along with Carla Bruni, are also the creators of Community Glue Workshop. A ‘project rooted in sustainability’ with goals to inspire people to consider restoring items in their home they would normally throw out or discard. The workshops were held at local coffee shop Kitchen Sink, of which Ally is a co-founder, and served as an opportunity for neighbors to bring in anything from their home that needed fixing at no cost. The monthly repair clinics held by CGW, are comprised of volunteers equipped with tools. The original concept is based on makerspaces, or community centers with tools. “At Fix-Ups, local tinkerers and handy-folk volunteer their time and services to neighbors in need of repair.”
Ally and Stuart worked hand-in-hand with 48th ward Alderman Harry Osterman and his colleague Sara Dinges to secure the space at no-cost, so long as the Edgewater Workbench could pay for utilities and a few overhead costs. Ally explains, “Edgewater is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city, as well as one of the most densely populated by artists. We want to build community around creativity and provide opportunities for people to learn skills they might not otherwise have the chance to learn. We don’t have a central hub for artists in Edgewater, but it would be great to! We also have a forward-thinking Alderman who is supportive of out-of-the-box initiatives, so a project like Edgewater Workbench isn’t one that will be stalled by beaurocracy — it is viable in many senses of the word.” In a year they would like to move into a more permanent space and operate as a more robust business with staff. The workbench is going to operate on sliding scale donations to help with overhead.
To hear more about the work Ally and Stuart are doing or if you would like to donate to the Edgewater Workbench, you can do so here. Community residents and neighbors are invited to their upcoming fundraiser on Saturday, Jan. 25, 6-9pm at ‘The Frontier’ (Jackalope Theatre), 1106 W. Thorndale Ave. The cost is $10 advance/$15 at the door. There will be live music, 3D printing demos, food & drinks, and a host of great raffle prizes! Find info on the event at their Facebook page.
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