The Harvard Ed Portal and the arts
The Harvard Ed Portal opened its doors in Allston just over 10 years ago. Since that time, it has hosted an assortment of programs and events that sought to elevate the creative community. In making its commitment, the Ed Portal has helped to create and coordinate annual programs such as the Winter Market and Western Avenue Arts Walk; managed the Crossings Gallery; offered performances and classes for artists of all ages and abilities; and worked with local creatives, organizations, and community members to help them grow their businesses.
“At the Ed Portal, we aim to understand and buttress the needs of local artists, makers, and those who appreciate and consume their work,” said Eve Alpern, assistant director for arts programing at the Ed Portal. “These creatives are a huge asset to the local community. When they have access to consistent tools and support, they make Allston an even stronger neighborhood than it already is.”
For the past four years, the Ed Portal has created and hosted a Winter Market comprised of creators from across Greater Boston. It has been an opportunity for makers to meet the community and other artists, and a chance, of course, to sell their work.
“[Harvard’s support for the arts] shows that they are invested in creators, not just placing something on the wall, but really invested in their livelihood,” says Ayana Mack, an artist and vendor at this year’s Winter Market. “They really care about what we are doing and our value.”
Despite this year’s market being held fully online, participating artists — and customers — say it was wildly successful.
But when planning for the transition, organizers knew they wanted to do more than merely replicate past markets. Acutely aware of current struggles many local artists were facing, they realized that this year’s market required something more, so they created a suite of supports for all Winter Market vendors. The full complement of opportunities included assistance from a network of experienced professionals in marketing, social media, and media relations, and branding and sales.
More than a market
Adria Katz, an instructor with the Harvard Ceramics Program, is a vendor at this year’s market. She’s also taking part in teaching a four-part virtual ceramics course for Ed Portal members.
The virtual Winter Market included opportunities to learn how to “replicate the in-person experience.” Mack recognized this push as an effort to support artists beyond the work they produce, and to help build their own communities. Mack participated in Art in Process, an event that provided opportunities for Ed Portal members to meet makers, such as herself, who bring attendees into their creative processes.
With partners in the area such as Zone 3 and Artisan’s Asylum, which will soon move its headquarters from Somerville to Allston, there has been a growing number of opportunities designed to lift artists and creators up and build on the supportive environment in Allston-Brighton and Greater Boston.
During the second week of January, the Ed Portal, Lowell Makes, Mudflat Studios, MakeIt Labs, and Artisan’s Asylum teamed up to host Making it as a Maker, featuring Becca Webb and Rebecca Haas, veteran makers of pottery and jewelry, respectively. Both Webb and Haas have dedicated followings both online and in person and understand how to invite people into their worlds by turning customers into community.
While the conversation was in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers realized that though a website and a robust online presence were essential during quarantine, they have the potential to be game changers when it’s safe to gather again.