What is “rigorous self-care” and how can one find such a thing in the midst of life’s everyday hustle? This is exactly what Practice Space helps to answer and then weave through its locality to strengthen a community.
Practice Space is nestled in Inman Square, an area that sits at an intersection of Cambridge and Somerville, just across the river from Boston, Massachusetts. The storefront itself is unassuming and blends into the row of shops dotting Cambridge Street. However, if one stops for a just a few paces and takes a look inside, he or she would quickly be bitten by curiosity. Advertised as a storefront research studio, the space serves as a platform to explore the work of living through practices of art, research, exploration, and a hefty dose of introspection.
The bug of curiosity bit me when I came across the storefront one February evening. A friend and I were enjoying the mild temperature, a warm welcome in contrast to the wintry season, and admiring the shops and restaurants that make up the diverse quilt of Inman square. As we came across the storefront window, I peeked past the the hand-marked letters “Practice Space” to the watercolor prints, potted plants, and glowing light in the back of the store. The cozy space itself looked like a shot from a design book and quickly drew my friend and me inside.
Friends Nicole Lattuca and Diana Lempel, pictured above, are the visionary minds behind Practice Space. They market it as a research studio because of their investigation in the multifunctionality of a storefront, serving as anything from gallery to a school, and also because of the seasonal question that they ask their community. During the winter, the question was “How can Hygge be shared?” and focused on the quest for comfort on an individual level and on a community level. This spring, the question is “How can wonder make our city better?” What I find so intriguing about the questioning is the way that it is offered up to public opinion: across the storefront window itself. People need not feel intimidated answering it completely or within a time frame. Passerbys can revisit the question each day, answer it for themselves, and thus answers are malleable depending on the day or person.
About a month after my first visit, I returned to Practice Space for one of the weekly open studio events. We painted with watercolors, with our fingers, and with bits of twigs and leaves. Nicole guided us through the practice. She explained the mental block that people often face when taking up a creative project for the first time in a while, especially one that requires the use of unconventional tools like the parts of a tree.
We also talked of “rigorous self-care” and what it means to be present in society but also present in oneself. Nicole explained that although most people practice stress relieving and meditative activities, such as running, yoga, reading, or sipping tea, few find moments to be solitary with their own thoughts and think introspectively about themselves and their community. Practice Space serves as a platform for community members to start taking first steps toward finding meaning and ultimately toward giving meaning back to their community.
You can read more about Practice Space by visiting its website or Facebook page. Of course, the absolute best way to check it out for yourself is to pop in, poke around, and even enroll in one of the recurring Open Studio events.