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Friends Having Breakfast

Meet Me in Medford | Celia Lee, Local Artist

Celia Lee of the Arts Collaborative Medford

From the murals on buildings across town to the meditative labyrinth on Freedom Way and the beautiful Condon Shell on the Mystic River, it’s clear that Medford is a city that celebrates creativity.

Celia Lee of the Arts Collaborative Medford is one of the people bringing artists together and building community. We spent some time with Celia to learn more about the Arts Collaborative and what they have in store for the community.

We always start with the question: If you're originally from Medford, tell us where you grew up. And if you grew up elsewhere, what brought you to our fair city?

I’m originally from Hawaii, and I came to Massachusetts to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and spent many years living in Cambridge and Somerville. When it came time to buy a house, we had friends who lived in West Medford, where there were houses with larger yards, different than what most people see off of Interstate 93.

What struck me about the area is that there's green space in Medford. People tend to think of it like Somerville, where there’s little green space. Medford has a river running through the city. After years of renting in Cambridge and Somerville, having a bit of green was a welcome change, and we’ve been living here since 1998.

What do you enjoy most about your neighborhood?

Well, in addition to the greenspace, I love the walkability. I walk my dogs along the river by Duggar Park, and I like that as someone who works in Boston, I’m a short walk to the West Medford Commuter Rail station.

Maybe it’s because we moved here and quickly started a family, but we’ve also found a solid community in our neighborhood, as well as in the different preschools and, of course, through the Medford Family Network.

You’re also a community builder yourself. Tell us about your role within the arts community in Medford.

I volunteer with CACHE, the Coalition for Arts, Culture, and a Healthy Economy, which sponsors the annual Circle the Square event. I’m also involved in two arts organizations in Medford. The first is Arts Medford, which some may remember as the Medford Arts Center. We changed the name recently to avoid confusion with the Medford Arts Council, which provides grant funding for arts and cultural events in Medford.

Arts Medford’s focus is supporting artists through coordinating gallery shows, events, and workshops. Mystic Makerspace is also a project of ArtsMedford, and we currently host workshops out of the Medford Library. But we hope to go back to workshops at other locations like the West Medford Community Center and Senior Center again. The Makerspace programs range from knitting and arts and crafts to 3D printing; We focus on ages 16+ so as to not compete with the Library's programming for children and teens.

The other organization I am a part of is Arts Collaborative Medford, a new non-profit organization created members by CACHE, ArtsMedford, and the Medford Arts Council. Our goal is to create a welcoming and inclusive space for artists of all levels to come together and share their creativity.

We’ll be opening a new art center on Mystic Avenue, which will have studios, event space, and classrooms available for artists and organizations to rent. The center will have about 12 studios of different sizes. Artists can apply for studio spaces, and we hope to build a diverse and vibrant community of artists through those rentals. We’ll also have event space and classroom space that can be rented by both nonprofits and for-profit organizations. Arts Collaborative Medford will also have a gallery space for displaying artwork.

We’re still in the final stages of getting the space approved for occupancy and hope to open the doors in November. In the meantime, you can drive by and see the amazing mural that graces the front of the building at 162 Mystic Avenue!

That is exciting news! When you aren’t making art or creating a community for artists, what are your favorite spots around the city?

The Brooks Estate is such a hidden gem we learned about through neighbors, and I’m surprised by how many people you meet in Medford who don’t know about it. I also love walking along the Mystic River by Duggar Park and watching people play pickleball. It’s definitely busier on the weekends, but there's a group playing even on some weekday mornings if you go around 10 or 11. Finally, I’d say the West Medford Community Center is another favorite spot. They offer a lot of great programming for kids and adults. When the library was closed for renovation, we hosted Makerspace events there, and we’re getting ready to start doing workshops and events there again.

If your best friend told you they were considering a move to Medford, what would you tell them?

I’d tell them to do it for all the reasons I mentioned — greenspace, walkability, community, and the arts! The schools here are good too, especially having a vocational school. Medford has been really great place of community for my family and me — parents, fellow dog owners, and the whole arts community. It’s really been something to treasure.

If you’d like to learn more about Arts Collaborative Medford — upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, and when you can stop into the new Arts Center on Mystic Avenue — visit their website and subscribe to their email list!

Like what you’re reading here? Want to know more? Sign up for the 4Squares Medford Newsletter and tune in to more conversations with great Medford neighbors!

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