The Roslindale Substation Is Transforming Into an Art Space

So long, Trillium.

The Roslindale substation was built in 1911. / Photo by Jules Struck

Mourn the loss of Trillium’s Roslindale substation beer garden no longer. A cool new art space is taking over the historical building this month.

On Saturday, July 14, the substation will officially open as an artist workspace and exhibition pop-up. It will offer studio space for artists as well as programming for the public. That programming will range from anything to business strategy advising courses to art exhibitions.

The startup reimagining the substation is called Spaceus, and will be set up there until September. Opening day kicks off at 7:45 a.m. with a yoga session, and later, attendees can participate in a painting class, paper flower ritual procession, sound installation, and a few other events until closing at 4 p.m.

During regular hours—weekdays from 12 to 8 p.m. and weekends 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.—the space will function as a studio for paying members. It will be open to everyone during its public events, which will be posted on Spaceus’ website in the coming weeks.

Spaceus cofounder Ellen Shakespear says that all artists are welcome to take advantage of the pop-up studio space, from architects to poets to zine makers. Spaceus is “definitely not media-specific,” she says.

“This is about creating a space for open communication and dialogue,” adds Stephanie Lee, the startup’s other co-founder.

Lee and Shakespear are both architecture and planning graduate students at MIT. During their studies, they noticed two problems kept cropping up­: trouble contracting spaces for artists, and empty storefronts. The solution? Fusing them together.

“There’s so much momentum around activating vacant storefronts,” says Shakespear. “People are frustrated and looking for space.”

Spaceus co-founders Ellen Shakespear and Stephanie Lee. / Photo by Jules Struck

Lee says the startup provides a sustainable service to local artists, but also serves as a neighborhood gathering place. She explains Spaceus is part of an effort to address disconnect between industry and individuals. “We were always thinking how to design for people but we didn’t know our neighbors,” she said.

Spaceus is partly funded by MIT and partly by membership fees. Every month, members can pay $25 for access to programs, $75 to organize programs, $225 to $275 for restricted use of the space, and $300 for complete access.

The idea to open in the substation was born last year, after Spaceus stationed a successful pop-up at Faneuil Hall. As that pop-up wrapped up, Lee and Shakespear got in touch with branches of the National Trust for Historic Preservation around Boston. These organizations, called Main Streets, work as resource centers to revitalize and support community centers. Roslindale Village Main Street connected Spaceus with Peregrine LLC, the owners of the then-vacant substation.

The historical Classic Revival building was built in 1911 to convert electrical currents for Boston’s transportation system. The building had undergone 16 years of on-and-off development and restoration until two years ago when it became serviceable for commercial use, said Alia Hamada Forrest, executive director at Roslindale Village Main Street.

“We just walked in here, and it’s so hard to say no to a place like this,” said Shakespear. Underused spots like the substation are “persistent holes in the fabric of the neighborhood,” that Spaceus hopes to revitalize, said Shakespear.

The studio’s forthcoming lineup of events will be updated on Spaceus’ social media accounts and website.

Spaceus, 4228 Washington St., Roslindale,