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Nino Rekhviashvili

Albert Einstein believed that "the secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources." But maybe he had it wrong. Public arts and crafts communities just outside Manhattan have discovered that the true secret to getting those creative juices flowing lies in sharing resources and welcoming all to freely exercise their right brain. In an age of 24/7 social media, the umpteenth iPhone model, and Pinterest, the ways people interact, learn, and create have become primarily virtual. Yet, considering the success of public work spaces and arts education centers like 3rd Ward in Brooklyn and fledgling groups like Scrap NYC Papercraft Group in Queens, the 21st-century approach to creativity may be changing. When 3rd Ward founders Jason Goodman and Jeremy Lovitt moved to Brooklyn from Boston in 2004, they sought out a space that would recreate the environment in which they thrived as students at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Rather than continue their search, they constructed their vision from the ground up, converting an empty 20,000 sq. ft. East Williamsburg warehouse into a space for artists, designers, and inventors of every breed—professionals and dabblers alike—to come, conceive, and create. Now in its seventh year, the 3rd Ward community has grown into an eclectic mélange of Brooklyn locals and Manhattanites who take full advantage of its abundant resources, machinery, and work space for a fee determined by how often they use them. With more than 100 classes offered quarterly in an array of artistic disciplines—from screen printing to web design to woodworking—members expand their skill sets, delve into new mediums, and uncover hidden talents in the company of friends, many of whom become future collaborators. Within the spacious studios that fill the floors of this warehouse-turned-DIY haven, minds intermingle and bounce ideas off one another—and the creative sparks are flying. "3rd Ward has been amazing for creativity and for people trying new things and learning new things and building new things," says Isaac Cohen, an associate who managed the building at the time of its founding. "Almost everybody comes in with one degree, and they go beyond that." Their business model—established with the intent of inspiring members to take risks and stretch themselves beyond their specific artistic abilities—has proven beneficial in expanding 3rd Ward's reach in the neighborhood and beyond. "It's brought a tremendous amount of liveliness and activity and creativity and people and traffic," Cohen says. "It's been incredible for the area." Members like 27-year-old Zach Dinerstein, who commutes from Park Slope, Brooklyn, find the space worth the weekly trip, as it provides an ideal retreat in which to work productively outside their apartment walls. "I started coming here about three months ago because I—like everybody in New York—have two jobs," Dinerstein says. "One of my jobs [involved] me working from home a lot, and I didn't want to do that anymore." The 3rd Ward team has put into practice its own creative advice to ensure that it continues to flourish in the future. Along with plans to expand into Philadelphia, this crafty enterprise has opened a second location in Williamsburg, a Brooklyn Culinary incubator, and a restaurant—Goods—that serves customers out of a converted trailer. While having an established space like 3rd Ward's warehouse undoubtedly helps to stir and facilitate creativity, sometimes all it takes is a group of like-minded individuals to form an artistic community. Scrap NYC founders Amy Lynn Herman, Emily Raw, and Meg Keys bonded over their shared love of paper-making and crafts. Now they invite others to explore what has become their mission statement: "an integral, cross-cutting medium for developing creative expressive forms." Herman, a co-facilitator, described meeting Raw at a holiday market in December, where both worked as vendors. One conversation about their travels and passions (a mutual admiration of a bike-powered paper mill project) and an email correspondence later, in late January, the group hosted its first successful meeting, which included making bows and postcards out of old magazines over a potluck dinner. The ways people create have undoubtedly shifted to accommodate the changing times, but the heart of the matter remains unchanged: To create—whether alone in a workroom or gathered with others around homemade dishes—is to share a part of oneself with the world and, in turn, inspire others. For Herman, arts and crafts are a particularly relevant phenomenon. "Artists and makers are at the forefront of social, economic, and political shifts because they are cultivating new ways of processing these sweeping social and economic changes," she says. "They are responding directly and pluralistically." "There are a lot of artists and craftspeople that benefit, as we are seeing," Cohen says. "It's hard for someone with a casual interest in woodworking to get educated or, if they already are, to have a space with all the machines. That was the vision: to create a community space where people are able to share the resources, keep the costs down, and create." Whether situated in the age of instant-everything or in Einstein's era, the creative process requires a healthy dose of risk-taking to bring a truly unique vision to life. Yet, as the founders of these thriving creative communities can attest, once created, there's no telling how far the vision will spread.