When Marina Speevak walks into Somerville schools, some kids call her “the beautiful lady.” It’s not a bad moniker for Speevak, who runs a creative reuse center called the Beautiful Stuff Project that helps people reappropriate scrap materials from local manufacturers into craft projects.
The walls of the building are lined with all sorts of items, from mosaic tiles to scrap wire, and tables are set up for anyone who wants to drop by and craft. The Beautiful Stuff Project also offers events and classes, like the weekly Artist Trading Card Workshop, where adults can create small cards using a “buffet of art materials” and then trade them, or a recent addition called Mom’s Night Out, where local moms made DIY treasure boxes.
“We try very, very hard to remain accessible to everyone in the community,” says Speevak, who is an artist as well as an educator. “We have really gotten a cross section of families that come and take advantage of our space. We feel like we’re a really safe and welcoming space for anyone. Guidance center clinicians come here and bring their in-home therapy kids that they’re working with to use [the room] as an art therapy space.”
Speevak has a rich background in education. She taught in the Cambridge school district for years, and now her curricula and educational programs that have grown out of the Beautiful Stuff Project are used in every early childhood classroom in Somerville public schools, she says.
She started the project five years ago as a way of giving back to the community, and ran the whole operation out of a cubicle in Artisan’s Asylum. However, the demand became too high within a few months of opening and she moved into a storefront.
The Beautiful Stuff Project moved again this summer, from East Somerville to Medford Street in Magoun Square. The move wasn’t voluntary—Speevak says the building was going to be sold—but the new, bigger space gives the project more room to grow.
“The move happened pretty much because it had to; we were being pushed out,” she says. “The move was kind of epic … We had several volunteers. It was the hottest day of the summer.”
Speevak is experimenting with new revenue streams in the Magoun Square space, including DIY kits and take-home scrap materials. But even as the organization grows, the primary mission to be accessible to the community is still at its core. For example, every Somerville public school teacher is allowed to take home a free bag filled with materials after each visit.
“In order for us to be able to continue, we have to increase our revenue streams,” Speevak says. “So, we’re really trying to push a pay-what-you-can model, and trying to push members of the community in Somerville who can afford to pay more or can afford to make financial donations to step up and do that so that we can remain really accessible to all members of the community.”
The Beautiful Stuff Project is located at 511 Medford St. For more information on donating scrap materials, providing financial support, or volunteering, visit beautifulstuffproject.com.