Somerville-based CultureHouse Launches Pop-up in Kendall Square


Kendall Square is getting a “living room for the community” as Somerville-based CultureHouse starts a several-month pop-up in a vacant storefront.

Almost all indoor public spaces are commercial, with libraries being the notable exception. CultureHouse seeks to change that.

It provides a place where people can come together to watch the Women’s World Cup (the United States versus England semi-final was on the projector when I visited), enter a ping pong tournament, or just enjoy some free air conditioning and WiFi.

The pop-up started this week at 500 Kendall St. and will run through the end of October. A grand opening party on July 6 from 4 to 8 p.m. will include food, music, and games.

“One of our goals of this project is to increase joy,” CultureHouse Director Aaron Greiner told Scout last summer, when CultureHouse was popping up in the lobby of Union Square’s Bow Market.

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.

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.

CultureHouse’s focus for the Kendall location involves making the square more inclusive and helping to activate it outside of workday hours, according to Community Engagement Director Allie Girouard.

“This is a very tech-centered, work-centered space,” Girouard says of Kendall. “Our goal for this pop-up, much more than for other pop-ups, is how do you create a space, in an area that is unwelcoming to a lot of people, that feels welcoming and feels inviting?”

CultureHouse plans to utilize community partnerships to bridge these gaps. There will be an art installation of works by incarcerated artists, a pop-up from feminist/LGBTQ bookstore All She Wrote, and a relationship with the Community Art Center, which leads art programming for local youth.

The CultureHouse team wants the project to be replicable by others, and has put together a manual of what they’ve learned so far. They hope to see CultureHouses sprinkled throughout the country, run by people from within the communities.

Funding for Kendall pop-up comes from the Forest Foundation, a Boston-area organization that supports young leaders through grants, and real estate company BioMed Realty.