By Sarah Corday
Tucked in a corner of a low-lit back street on Goose Island, a cluster of figures gather at a warehouse door. Inside, a strobe light flashes, and heavy bass spills into the otherwise calm night.
Launched in August of 2016, Lost Arts is a co-working space that aims to empower creative entrepreneurs by providing space, tools, and a creative community. Its members are a mixture of artists and entrepreneurs using the Internet and technology to create a better future.
Walking around the 25,000 square-foot space in a pair of khaki-convertible slacks, Adler could easily pass for any one of the young, edgy, creative types that mill about.
I spoke with him just as a marching band was revving up, clamoring into the space with bass drums and tubas. It was exactly the kind of random, celebratory parade one might expect from a group of entrepreneurs crafting everything from board games to biodegradable dinnerware.
“We’ve got entrepreneurs in here working on products,” says Adler, motioning to loosely sectioned off workspaces. “Artists, technologists, fashion designers,” He gestures to his pants, adding, “Not my design, but a fashion designer’s.”
He leads me to a refrigerator growing mushrooms. “These are connected to the Internet,” says Adler, referring to Sojourn Fare founder Roman Titus’ automated-mushroom cultivation project. “It’s basically a network of growing machines.”
It’s clear that the Internet has been an integral part of Lost Arts’ creative makeup. The warehouse itself is outfitted with a high-speed, fiber-optic connection. Those that make up the Lost Arts team use Kickstarter – the online crowd-funding platform Adler co-founded – to fund their projects. Adler says, “Over the past year we’ve seen people raise about 450 to 500 thousand dollars, collectively.”
With what result? “[That] they continue to develop those projects here, or…that they keep generating more projects,” says Adler.
Technology is as integral to Lost Arts as is the Internet. Pointing to a colorful display of fluorescent lights, Adler explains, “It’s a civic art project powered by technology.”
— Lost Arts (@lostartscenter) February 25, 2017
The project, sponsored in part by Comcast, is called Wabash Lights. When completed, a series of colorful LED lights will run the length of Wabash Street under the “L” train, transforming the corridor underneath into a public disco of sorts. The lights can be controlled by means of an app, allowing the community to engage directly with the installation.
When discussing the collaborative culture that exists at Lost Arts, Adler highlights the delineation that tends to occur between current co-working spaces. “There’s art space, there’s entrepreneurial spaces, for entrepreneurs and engineers. This (Lost Arts) is about mashing them altogether. The architecture… of the space is about transparency. So there’s no walls. It’s about visibility.”
Tonight’s gathering represents the close of the year-long venture, and I ask Adler what’s next for Lost Arts.
“We’re going on hiatus while we raise funds for our permanent space. This whole year’s been an experiment. A very intentional, a very long pop-up. It was supposed to last six months but has gone a total of thirteen. So, at three and a half months we started doing well enough that we thought, ‘What else can we learn? What else can we do?’ ”
“Our minds are now full, and we get to parlay that into the next space.”