For more than a year, a former Cambridge Health Alliance walk-in clinic in Union Square has sat vacant. But that changed on November 20, when local artist Judith Klausner and a group of 33 area artisans opened to doors to the Somerville Local Arts Mall (SLAM), a pop-up store where shoppers will be able to purchase all kinds of original art this holiday season.
Klausner, who was also behind this summer’s Pop Up Curiosity Shop in Union Square, spent nine months planning and prepping for this “gargantuan” undertaking. “I’ve learned a lot about local government and building codes and bureaucracy,” she laughs. “All kinds of things.” She had just 12 hours to make her final preparations for SLAM’s debut, after Showtime announced at the last minute that the network needed to film a portion of a pilot TV episode in the space.
But her hard work has paid off—the one-of-a-kind mall is now bustling with an array of painters, sculptors, fiber artists, glassblowers and more in a space that formerly housed nurses, doctors and patients. Tablecloths and easels have brought life to the once-sterile space; vibrant art in a variety of mediums now warms the fluorescent lighting in each exam room.
To Klausner, it’s both a testament to the transformative powers of art and an interesting stage in the life of this building, which—once the popup bids farewell in mid-December—will take on a totally new purpose.
“I think art transforms any place that it’s in,” Klausner says. “I think we see that all the time with public art—art in subway stations, art in all kinds of corners of communities. Anywhere you go, art transforms.”
The Somerville Local Arts Mall is open through December 17 at 337 Somerville Ave. in Union Square. Hours are Monday through Thursday from noon to 6:30 p.m., Friday from noon to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Learn more at somervillearts.org.