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Hi There, Harrisburg MakeSpace

During last night’s Third in the Burg, I made the trip up a few extra blocks of North Third to see how Harrisburg Makespace was coming along.  A few weeks ago, FRH Lisa and myself stopped by to help clean and donate some supplies; we had the “before” image, and we were really looking forward to seeing the “after”.  Here’s what greeted us as we strolled up:

Harrisburg_MakeSpace_outside

Harrisburg_MakeSpace_lobby

A bustling crowd was spilling out into the street in front of the unassuming structure at 1916 North Third.  Corn on the cob decorated the front porch, and we were warmly greeted by total strangers as we approached.  We walked inside to a room full of friendly people loudly socializing over the night’s soundtrack.  Framed vintage newspaper clippings adorned one wall, while rough plaster — complete with permanent, grid-like marks from the long-gone framing — covered the other.  What was formerly a nondescript closet under the stairwell had been transformed into a bar:

Harrisburg_MakeSpace_bar-1

Upstairs, the second and third floor bedrooms have been converted into artist studios.  Tacky 1970s-ish carpeting has been removed, revealing well-used but perfectly good hardwood underneath.  Don’t think of it as “worn out flooring” — call it “flooring with character”.  The walls along the stairwells have been transformed with a mishmash of old newspapers, magazines, and sheet music all carefully varnished over.  The result is as unique as the venue itself, and sets the creative tone for upper levels.

Harrisburg_MakeSpace_stairs

All of the studios are currently filled, except for a curious unlit but open room just off the main stairwell.  The artist styles and techniques are as diverse as the building’s interior, ranging from sketches to cardboard portraits to textiles to everyday objects.

Harrisburg_MakeSpace_studio1

Harrisburg_MakeSpace_studio2-1

Harrisburg_MakeSpace_studio3

Some people call Old Uptown the city’s newest residential hotspot of a neighborhood.  Others see it as more of a cultural hotspot, like a toned-down Midtown.  Whatever your stance, it’s clear that something is changing in those often-forgotten neighborhoods north of Reily.  Ten years ago, that was a sketchy place to be seen after sundown.  But last night, it was swarming with reinvention, culture, and civic pride.

You can’t build a city on just tax credits and industrial space.  To staff your local businesses with talented minds and creative individuals, you need a vibrant, thriving culture.  Harrisburg Makespace is poised to shake up a few perceptions about the city, and give Harrisburg a major shove in the right direction.  One can’t help but come to the realization that we’re witnessing a second cultural renaissance in Harrisburg.  Congratulations to MakeSpace and the other area residents & investors on bringing some life back to Old Uptown!

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