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Make/Shift offers a space for art without rules

Make/Shift is a public, arts-based creation space hosted weekly in downtown Grinnell at The Stew by Professor Jeremy Chen, senior lecturer in studio art at Grinnell College. Make/Shift “emphasizes experimentation and is less concerned about the product that comes out of that,” said Chen. “I see it as a space for possibilities and community.” The space is open on Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m., when students can drop in to work on whatever projects they would like.

Chen created Make/Shift to break the script often seen in for-profit locales. “I’m interested in non-commercial spaces that allow public interaction and encourage creative and cultural interaction,” Chen said. “How do you go to a space and bring your own agency to that space?” Make/Shift serves as an opportunity to create without guidelines or boundaries.

“We have lots of spaces where people can go to buy a product, to pay for an experience,” Chen explained. “We have fewer spaces where people from all different walks of life, different life experiences can gather and engage with less of a specific event or activity in mind.”

Grace Wallace ‘22 attended Make/Shift last year. Wallace said, “it’s a very relaxed environment, and it’s kind of therapeutic to sit there and make art and talk to people.” Wallace worked on various projects, from collages to a board game made from  magazines and books from the 1960s.

“I’d like to see more engagement from a very wide range of people that live in this town,” Chen said. “That person might meet someone else that they would never meet in town otherwise.” However, attendance has always been fairly low, at around six to ten people per Thursday.

“On Fridays, you have a lot of stuff due, you have quizzes, tests,” Lee noted. “That’s probably why students are hesitant to take the time to go off campus.” said Tommy Lee ’22, who also attends Make/Shift.

“I think people maybe don’t really know what it is, you kind of have to go for the first time to understand what’s going on.” Wallace said.

“I’ve thought about partnering with all kinds of places,” Chen said. “I’m interested more in the

College reaching out to the community or engaging with the community in different ways, and students engaging with people intergenerationally.”

Make/Shift also hosts events throughout the year to highlight different aspects of the arts community in Grinnell.

“There was a time when the band Pink Neighbor came, and they did collages along with the students and the other people there,” Wallace said. “They had their music playing and they were selling their merch.”

Near the beginning of last year, Make/Shift put on a puppet show directed towards a younger audience. During each of these events, there was higher-than-average attendance to Make/Shift.

Make/Shift fills a unique role in Grinnell: it serves as a space where people can embrace creative agency without a script and in an environment that relieves the pressure of judgement. There is no teacher: students, local artists and College faculty all create and learn together. Even if it’s only for two hours each week, art is freed from restraint.

Make/Shift is held every Thursday night at The Stew, led by professor Jeremy Chen. Photo by Abraham Teuber.
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  • K

    KathySep 24, 2019 at 12:17 pm

    We have a similar gathering of artists here in Cedar Rapids. The Eastern Iowa Arts Academy hosts a weekly Coffee and Art Club on Tuesday mornings. Adults of all ages and walks of life meet to create and socialize. The Academy supplies the art materials (and coffee) or people bring their own projects to work on. I will soon be relocating to Kellogg and would love to be able to participate in this type of activity if it were offered during the day.