Malden Pops Up

Malden, MA

Contact Name
Ose Schwab
Project Dates
Malden Pops Up was planned as a pop-up gift shop that sold locallhy produced
art and other products in Malden's rapidly changing downtown area. After two
successful seasons at the end of 2016 and 2017, Halstead (the property manager at
480 Main Street) offered Malden Creates a discounted lease, allowing Malden Pops
Up to become the Gallery.

Support from Halstead and the City's Leaders have allowed the Gallery to continue
the precedent set by Malden Pops Up, maintaining a venue for local artisans and
performers a venue to sell, exhibit and perform their work.
Project Goals
What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
When the project began, the initial goal was to offer a popup art gift shop and performance space that would incite the imagination for the kind of arts activity that could happen in Malden, generate revenue for local artists and performers, build a creative community, generate revenue for the city by drawing visitors to various performances, and incubate future arts possibilities for Malden. The goal was most significantly to create a sense of place by showcasing local talent - thereby introducing Malden to its treasure.

The project addressed the need for spaces to show, sell, and perform artistic work. It also addressed that lack of creatives networking opportunities by providing a space that people could go to during the five weeks of operation.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
After the property owners invited the Malden Pops Up community to stay for a year more than the initial five weeks, new goals included building a hub that allows cultures to mix, reach the new residents moving in to Malden, increase the market for arts retail by inviting businesses to purchase art or participate, introduce art classes, offer a rotating art gallery that would draw more people to Malden, experiment with a podcast studio inside the shop, and better manage daily operations with volunteers.
In addition, the goal became to identify a potentially sustainable and more permanent cultural hub and arts presence in the downtown.
Who was involved in this project and what did they do? (be sure to include the partners from outside of the creative sector and how local voices were included):
The project was sponsored by Malden Creates, LLC and led by Ose Schwab. Other key participants included various local artists who helped shape the call for entries process, design the space, and serve as volunteer staff to work in the shop during open hours. The project also involved cultural entrepreneurs and nonprofits who sold imported items or products specifically related to Malden's history or artistic treasure. In addition, MATV, Malden's Media Center, not only sold books as part of the One Book One City initiative, became a partnering player that would introduce a popup podcast studio to the gift shop/gallery/performance space.
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
The project supports the current drive to revitalize the downtown. This is a goal that is driving construction projects in the downtown - bringing a higher concentration of housing close to the Train station, and with this a population of tenants hungry for ways to spend time and money. The strategic plan includes suggestions of diverse retail and cultural activities. This project combined the two.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
Many of the creative placemaking projects as described in the arts and culture planning toolkit created by MAPC as well as ourtown projects excited the imagination for what could happen. Places like Lowell that built up an arts district and eventually a vibrant arts and culture scene in the downtown. Lynn and its cultural district and mural projects also inspired this popup indirectly as did many key creative economy thought leaders like Theaster Gates.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
First we secured permission and a lease from the property owners. With this in place, proper insurance and temporary certificate of occupancy were obtained. Working with a list of artists from previous projects, emails were sent out to local arts organizations, cultural organizations, and through media outlets inviting artists to apply to sell their work in the popup. We also specifically reached out to cultural organizations like the Immigrant Learning Center, eager to invite immigrants to sell their art and be part of the creative community. In addition, we also sent word out to performers inviting performance acts to fill the 15 slots for events during the initial five weeks.

Setting up the space with enough furniture, fixtures, and display cases involve asking artists and other sources to loan tables, shelves and other suitable shop display items. This was largely down through networking.
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
With the extension of time granted, greater attention to operations was necessary. We identified shop leads to help organize necessary tasks areas: shop design, inventory management, events, classes, marketing, and outreach.
We offered regular volunteer training and created an operations manual complete with instructions on how to use the register and with information about each selling artists.
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
Though there was tremendous excitement about the popup initially, getting the word out to the city that was a huge challenge that was never completely overcome. Well into the year, we continuously heard people say they had not heard that this existed. Many artists living in Malden also did not think Malden was a place that had an appetite for art or art experiences. The other challenge was to transition from a leader-driven operation to a volunteer-driven operation where each artist volunteer felt engaged and empowered enough to initiate and take ownership of various aspects of the operation. People often waited for the leader to tell them what to do.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
As we witnessed sales of art and enthusiasm from the community, a shift in thinking about the willingness in Malden to buy or experience art occurred. More work is needed but a seed of hope has been planted. Regarding the leadership culture shift, this was facilitated by designating key leads and offering each a clear role of responsibility.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
Begin a project with clear role descriptions, regular meetings, and clear balance of skillset and ways of thinking. When led by a visionary leader, there should be key on-the-ground tacticians ready to implement the visionary's ideas. Inspire a supportive atmosphere.
Project Impact
How has this project strategically connected arts and cultural activities to social, economic, and cultural issues in your community? What is different in your community as a result of this project?
This project has brought an incredibly diverse set of people together as a community. The diversity reflects the diversity of the city - in the volunteer base, artists, visitors, audience, and exhibitors. The community is now excited and feel the importance of a community space that is there and can allow connections across differences. Through this project, artists are connected with each other, with other opportunities close by, and have generated some revenue. New residents have engaged. Many are hopeful that Malden can become a place that adequately represents its nature and the nature of its people.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
This project was a tremendous success in terms of inspiring the imagination and excitement for what is possible in Malden. Over 50 events took place; 73 creative sellers participated in the community; local organizations participated; and the project served as a rich cultural hub that brought many types of people together and offered the varied community of Malden to experience art together.
How did you measure this success or progress?
Variety of people who visited the space for an event or shopping. They reflected every demographic variation in Malden.
Number of people enthusiastic for the continuation of this project.
Enthusiastic attendance to cultural events.
Support from major civic players, including Mayor, Director of Chamber of Commerce, Director of Malden Redevelopment Authority, new business incubated by participating in the popup.
Eagerness of visitors and attendees to volunteer and engage.
Loyal following and participation from artists/sellers.
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
The most unexpected impact was the enormous extension of over one year free of rent.
The Mayor invited the group to present a proposal and business plan that includes a space and formation of entity to him. He would like to help fund such a future endeavor.
Several cultural players and organizations have expressed interest in forming a culture consortium to work together on behalf of the various ethnic communities to pool ideas, resources, and thinking for the sake of cultural exchange and experiences in Malden.
Several youth from the high school have indicated this experience connected with this project has given them hope and excitement about Malden as a community. They wish to participate in future developments.