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Mystic Open Studio is an arts space that is swiftly growing to meet the needs of the  Arlington community. The studio is becoming a gathering place for community  members to connect, share their skills, access arts materials, and support one another.  The space offers a weekly crafting circle, monthly workshops, and a “core artists  program” — in which artists pay a monthly fee of $200 or contribute their time to  working in the studio in exchange for access to the studio space, resources, and a  supportive network of fellow creatives. 

“That’s the kind of space that we want to be able to offer people: that little bit of  instruction, that welcoming and inspiration, some tools, low barriers to entry, and then  a lot of free rein,” said studio co-founder Charlotte Milan. "I think there's just a lot of really natural support,” she said, adding, “People can get this  idea, and when they hear about it, they get excited. And that helps energize us too.” 

Milan and co-founders Nicole Weber and Marina Strauss created Mystic Open Studio  after they were drawn together by a shared vision of cultivating an artists collective in  Arlington.  

Planting the seeds 
One night, at an open studio art night, Weber spoke a sentence that resonated with  Milan. “I really think we need to make an artists collective,” she said aloud to the room  of artists. 

Milan approached Weber from across the room. “What did you just say?” she asked,  opening up a larger conversation about what they would both discover was a shared  dream. Milan and Weber continued talking about their visions for an artists collective  over a long walk through Arlington, and eventually decided to start looking for a studio  space together. 

While looking for a studio space, they crossed paths with Strauss, who shared that she  had also been dreaming of creating a community arts space.  

“I was excited because I had been talking to my friends for a while — that I wanted to  do this,” said Strauss. 

Strauss heard about a space opening up that had once been a sewing school, and about  a week later, the three women decided to sign the lease together. 

“It went really fast,” said Weber, adding, “It was like a month of us having  conversations, seeing this, and going for it.” 

When Mystic Open Studio first opened to the public in June, community members were  invited to write their ideas for the space on the wall. Since then, the studio has been  continuing to grow in response to the desires of the community.  

Evolving with the community 
Access to the public is at the heart of Mystic Open Studio. “You know, having the space  be warm and inviting to the general public is important, and we really want to nurture the core artists that have committed to us and lent us their enthusiasm,” said Milan.  “The co-creation is really a creative process in and of itself,” she added. 

The core artists program includes monthly potlucks for artists to build community and  learn from one another. “We're hoping that they get a space to exhibit their work and to  nourish them through the potlucks,” said Strauss, adding, “But also in the potlucks,  there's an opportunity to exchange — so the core artists can sign up to share a skill with  the people that are part of that community.” 

Mystic Open Studio is also adaptable to the needs of community members. “If  financially, it doesn't make sense to pay the monthly fee, we are open and flexible to  making sweat equity kind of arrangements with people. We just want people here  making art,” said Weber, adding, “There shouldn't be any barriers between you and  being able to access the space and this community.” 

The studio also aims to make the practice of art-making accessible to the Arlington  community. “It’s reducing barriers to people coming and making art,” said Milan. The  studio hosts opportunities for wood burning, collaging, gelli printing, and other  printing techniques, and will also have clay available for community members to access  in the near future, said Milan.  

“The ideas about what is happening here are coming from the outside,” said Strauss.  “We want to be attuned to what people are needing in the community,” she added. 

Flowing into the future 
When Milan, Weber, and Strauss were brainstorming names for the space, they landed  on the word “mystic”, referencing both the nearby river and the collective energy of the  community coming together.  

“I do feel like there’s this energy, when we’re working together and building the space,”  said Strauss, adding, “It's the energy of the river, and you don’t know where that  energy comes, but it’s moving forward, and it’s eroding, and it’s twisting and turning.”  

Weber added, “I think what’s happening is also magical, and I think water is magic.” As  the space is taking shape, Mystic Open Studio is inviting the community members to  join the process, either by becoming a core artist, teacher, or workshop facilitator, or by  purchasing a membership card. For $150, community members can access ten hours of  studio time during open studio hours, and for $50, community members can access five hours of studio time. Community members can also become involved by visiting the  studio store or attending one of the studio events. All studio events, including open  studio times, can be found on the Mystic Open Studio online calendar.  

Events include a community crafting circle held every Monday at 7 p.m., a climate  justice collaborative meeting held the last Saturday of every month at 10 a.m., a clay  class held during the first four Tuesdays of October at 7 p.m., a monthly wood burning,  smores, and stories event, and a monthly dance party.  
The next dance party will take place on October 27 at 8 p.m. More information on  upcoming events can be found on the Mystic Open Studio website. Mystic Open Studio  can also be found on Instagram at @mysticopenstudio.

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