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Crafts Center increases programming, hosts workshops

Published: Friday, December 6, 2013

Updated: Friday, December 6, 2013 01:12

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Annie Levine / The Tufts Daily

The Crafts Center, located in the basement of Lewis Hall, has long been frequented by Tufts students seeking a space for a relaxing, art-oriented atmosphere. The center’s free resources are often used to complete class projects or banners for sports teams and clubs. 

This year, however, the Crafts Center has begun to take on a new role on campus. With new workshop programs, the center aims to provide an area for students to express their creativity through designing their own projects. The art studio is open to the entire Tufts community and provides instruction from student volunteers nicknamed “Crafties” during scheduled workshops and open hours.

The center has attracted more students this year due to its increased outreach, according to Melissa Ferrari, leader of the Crafts Center and a fourth-year student in the Tufts and School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (SMFA) dual-degree program.

“I think we’ve just been trying to listen to what students want more,” she said. “We also have more outlets of communication with them, in terms of being more active with the e-lists, and a lot of Google [Documents] to be able to hear what people want.”

According to members of the Crafts Center, hosting workshops was never a large portion of their programming. With this year’s emphasis on offering more events, however, students can visit the basement of Lewis to explore different styles of art and learn how to use certain tools to create artistic projects. One of the most popular is a wheel-throwing workshop taught by senior Johnny Wu on Sunday mornings.

“I think it was my freshman or sophomore [year] when I started teaching,” Wu said. “I wanted to do more pottery stuff because I did a lot in high school. I don’t remember why, but I remember going on the Crafts Center e-list and seeing an announcement about workshops, so I thought I might want to teach one.”

The Crafts Center is run entirely by student volunteers, many of whom live in the Crafts House. These students are responsible for running open hours, cleaning the center, helping students with tools and selecting the supplies needed to periodically restock the center.

“We’ve been trying to do a lot better this year, and we have been succeeding in keeping it organized,” Ferrari said. “Though it’s hard because a lot of people come in here and don’t know what things are ... We are trying to make a map over winter break, so people can refer to that so they know where everything is.”

The various improvements have brought the center to full capacity during many of its open hours this semester. Ferrari pointed out that Tufts art students frequently use the Crafts Center as a studio to help them finish their work.

“We do get a lot of class projects, and I’m a lot more excited because a lot of the combined degree students between the SMFA and Tufts are coming in and doing their homework,” she said. “I’m in the combined degree program, and it’s really hard to go to the SMFA just to use the studio space. It’s like an hour and a half commute just to find a place to draw.”

Finding studio space on the Medford/Somerville campus to complete projects can be difficult for dual-degree students, Ferrari said.

“For art students on campus, there’s not really any studio space [where] you can go and make a mess and not get fined from the school for getting charcoal all over the walls in your dorm room,” she said.

The Haunted House in Lewis’ lounge this Halloween, created by the Crafts Center, the Office of Residential Life and Learning and various students, is a prime example of programming that brought together many members of the Tufts community. Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science Benjamin Shapiro, the professor in residence of Lewis Hall and faculty advisor for the Crafts Center, explained that a variety of students got involved in the project.

“When we did the Haunted House, [there were] students from the dorm, random students on campus, students from the Crafts Center, and there were also quite a few engineering students who came in and were helping out, [made] things that could move,” Shapiro said. “They would make a papier-mache eye ball and then figure out a way to motorize it. Those are skills ... that neither one of those groups had by themselves.”

Shapiro hopes that the Crafts Center will be able to provide a common space on campus for all students to interact and develop innovative projects.

“There are quite a few students and faculty who really want to create these common spaces on campus,” he said. “We’ve called them and talked to them about ‘maker spaces.’ We’ve even come up with a good name for it, Jumbo Labs, which should be really cool.”

Shapiro said he looks forward to bringing creative student groups together in the Crafts Center next semester.

“This January, when things kick off, I want to get together and do some planning,” he said.

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