Gather and Launch
A community art program shouts “You Matter!”
Jones Architecture joined Dan Hisel Architect to help expand RAW’s footprint to support its burgeoning role as an arts-based catalyst for the growth and development of underserved young people. Using RAW’s “very little purse but excellent taste” we developed a fluid space that supports activities ranging from a 400-person gala to college counseling— all on one floor.
Established in 1988, RAW Art Works is on a mission to give kids the opportunity to be seen and heard. Young people tell their stories through the arts by working with clinical art therapists and professional artists who help them see a broader palette of life choices.
RAW first occupied the top floor of a four-story building in downtown Lynn, eventually taking over the other three floors with offices, classrooms, art studios and a film/video production studio, as well as a ground floor gallery and teaching space (which had been renovated by Hisel in 2008). Celebrating their 25th anniversary with programs bursting at the seams, the building next door became available for RAW to lease and they quickly moved on the opportunity to expand.
Once home to a jeweler, the 4,300 square foot building had to provide access from RAW’s adjoining building on the ground floor and serve as a welcoming entry point from the street.
The goal for the new space was flexibility: RAW leaders envisioned three programs on the first floor that would house a multitude of uses including more gallery and retail space, classrooms and counseling, yoga and other activities, as well as organization events.
Essentially, it needed to be a multipurpose gathering place that also offers dedicated private space, a contrast we addressed by dividing the space into thirds that parallel key new programs: ART OF WORD (expression through writing), LAUNCH (college-bound counseling) and GATHER (retail, gallery and ad-hoc studio).
Art classes, as well as space to display and sell the art works produced by the kids are visible from the street. The area is also used for public “art and wine” nights and other fundraising events. The middle area is designed as a lounge where kids can hang out –where college counselors can easily and casually interact with kids and check in on their progress – and pull them into an office for further discussions as needed. At the back, we carved out a 350-square foot conference room to support private activities such as counseling or creative writing classes.
Dividing the space with half walls and keeping a long corridor along the far wall that link to all the areas maintains an open flow. Ramps between the two buildings connect the new to the old. Glass garage doors allow different areas to be closed off for smaller gatherings and day-to-day activities. When opened, they create an expansive open room that can accommodate up to 400 people for gallery openings, events and other public functions. The ramp and seating connection between the two buildings doubles as a stage and runway for events and presentations.
Since completing the project, Jones has stayed engaged with the building along with RAW’s annual BASH fundraiser (the flexible space, when fully opened, can accommodate up to 400 people). In fact, the purchase of a painting led to our hiring in 2019 of the artist, Thonah Ep, a RAW program alumnus. Thonah was inspired by RAW to study art and architecture in college. Our purchase of his art led to a dialogue and mentorship – and ultimately a project designer role at Jones.
“RAW showed me the power of art and design and how it can bring communities together.”
— Thonah Ep, RAW Alumnus & Architectural Designer at Jones Architecture
Jones has completed renovations on other floors in the original building including the design of a film studio and editing suites, printmaking studio, 3d art studio, woodshop, and painting studio. We look forward to supporting RAW’s continued growth and feel lucky to have connected with an such an inspiring client whose creativity, collaboration and forward movement is on display daily.
“Raw Art Works had to grow. Too many kids on our waiting list. When Rick sat with us to talk about what it meant for us to expand into the abutting building, he soon realized that meeting all of our needs would be a huge challenge. The space needed to function as a studio, college access program, retail space, event venue and these could be happening at the same time. And we had very little purse but excellent taste! He submerged with his team, digging deep to design a space that over 500 kids would call home. Each day as they enter our hip new "Gather" space it screams "you matter!" Jones architecture is the real deal. Their sense of care and craft is hard to find. RAW scored.”
— Mary Flannery, M.A., Founder (ret.), RAW Art Works
“As a person of color who grew up in Lynn, I know what it’s like to feel limited in what the future holds for you. RAW was a supportive space that gave me the resources to support me in my journey in finding my own voice as a young adult. RAW recognizes the challenges that kids in Lynn face on a daily basis and helps them realize how powerful their voices can be by exploring and expressing their emotions. Because of RAW I was able to see my own potential and dream bigger than what I knew.”
— Cindy Sous, RAW Alumnus and Board Member
Although the project itself had little to do with the location of RAW, one of the most important aspects of this program is that it is centrally located and walkable for the 500 clients that make the daily trek from school to studio. Walkability is the basis of a sustainable city — green transportation with a low level of environmental influence, energy conserving, and without any air or noise pollution.
Principal in Charge: Rick Jones
Dan Hisel Architect
Dan Bonardi Engineering
PHOTOGRAPHY:William Horne and Ana Maria Cardenas Photography