Trampolines greet you as you walk into CultureHouse, leading to a bright room with a workspace that easily converts to a stage and yellow swings hanging from the ceiling.
CultureHouse’s creators have many aspirations for the pop-up that’s set up shop in a spare Bow Market space for the month of July. “A living room for the community.” “An indoor public park.” “An urban design test kitchen.”
“One of our goals of this project is to increase joy,” CultureHouse Director Aaron Greiner explains.
A crucial part of making people happier, to Greiner, is to offer public spaces where people can meet strangers, have fun, and spend time without spending a dime.
CultureHouse adapts to people’s needs and ideas. OSB wood tables upstairs offer a place to work, but convert to ping pong tables just by adding standalone nets. An unfinished plywood platform in the stairwell became a reading nook complete with cushions and pillows after kids, grabbing books donated by Candlewick Press, climbed up into the area.
Events ranging from transportation trivia to a free Zumba class to a community potluck fill the calendar. Dozens of people crowded in to watch the World Cup final on a projector, Greiner says, and later started a ping pong tournament.
Many people aren’t used to being in a free, community space like CultureHouse, Greiner explains. He was inspired in part by his semester abroad in Copenhagen to develop similar public spaces in his home state, and the trampolines mimic an installation he saw there.
A Somerville resident and Gloucester native, Greiner just graduated from Olin College this May. He’s not the only young person behind CultureHouse—his two fellow full-time employees are rising college seniors.
The Bow Market pop-up is the first longterm space for CultureHouse. Despite positive feedback, Greiner says they won’t be extending their Bow Market stint—he has a full-time job starting in the fall and his partners will go back to school, but more importantly, the team wants to take a step back and see what they can learn from the project’s first monthlong trial.
“The goal of this one-month pop-up was to learn and test our assumptions,” Greiner says. “We tested a lot of our ideas. We came in hoping this was a match for the community, hoping that this kind of space was needed, hoping that people would be receptive to it, and people would understand it, because it is an idea that’s not very common.”
They plan to publish a public report after the pop-up detailing what they learned, in hopes of helping other people in other communities launch their own CultureHouses. Greiner dreams of seeing CultureHouses sprinkled throughout the country.
CultureHouse is a nonprofit, and the monthlong stay is funded by the Forest Foundation, a Boston-area organization that supports young leaders through grants. Greiner is looking into more longterm funding and hopes to open again somewhere in the future.
“It’s been a really incredible experience doing this, we have learned so much,” Greiner says. “For this month, our goal is to really be providing people an idea of what the space could be.”
For a complete list of events at CultureHouse, check out the space’s calendar.