The most common comment I get from people who come to Troy Innovation Garage for the first time is about the “energy” in our space. Describing what sets apart Troy Innovation Garage from the run-on-the-mill real estate developer tossing some new furniture in private office suites or in our expansive open spaces or conference rooms, and calling it coworking is exactly like trying to describe why some public parks get packed with people and some only attract tumbleweeds.
My view over the past few years is that energy obviously comes from the people. There’s movement in our space. There are a variety of interactions happening. We have attentive crew members and helpful, friendly staff. There something in human nature that makes this action attractive. My wife and I have an on-going joke when we see a line that “nothing attracts a crowd like crowd.” So, yes, the crowd is part of this “energy” that people describe. On those days when 75-80 people are working and moving about, it’s a totally different from the days where 15-18 people show up.
But I do also think the built environment matters. By built I wouldn’t limit that definition to the initial designs and construction. In many ways those things can be very limiting. In fact, we have done almost as much post-opening construction and retrofitting at Troy Innovation Garage as we did when we first gutted the place. It’s driven partially by wanting to do something totally different in the Albany, N.Y. commercial real estate scene. But. it’s also adapting and personalizing to the coworking communities we built and the attitude of our coworking members.
I’ve written before about this mantra to let ‘creatives do their thing.” This is deep in my core values and is on-going. We paint all of our walls in every space a mid-tone Gray. It’s an easy decision that I made on the first day of the first project. And my reasoning was simple – it won’t matter because every wall will be filled with art over time. And we’ve worked to live up to that ideal of bringing original art into our spaces.
The impact of works of art in our communities is something that so many people who try to emulate the style of our project fail to recognize and carry over. I’ve given these tours where we are open source and being helpful and tried to explain the impacts. Aside from the people, this integration of art throughout our spaces is the most important source of “energy” that people feel. They may not make the direct connection but it’s part of what they see and sense.
Each new space we have developed since Troy, N.Y. we always included art in the budget. It’s included at the jump and an on-going opex. We did it at Bull Moose Club in downtown Albany, N.Y., with artwork that pay homage to the New York State Capitol scene. At Westwey Club in downtown Providence, R.I., we were fortunate to partner with The Avenue Concept, Rhode Island’s leading public arts organization, to commission several original murals. We let the artists have free reign once they got a sense of our mission and overall membership. Our physical space and the layout of the unique flat iron-type floorplan provided some limitations, but the artists were able to really help us elevate what could have been a hum drum office environment. Additionally, we were proud to provide some commissions at a time during the pandemic were some folks needed extra work.
I can vividly recall the sticker shock and demoralizing feeling I had when I bought my first small conference table for my then startup creative firm. It’s one of those bills as a small business that eats at you. I can tell you now with this newest endeavor that I have never regretted cutting out a new furniture expense in favor of original art. And now that I think about it, I don’t even know when I actually got rid of that first table. That’s how unimportant it always was.
Founder & owner, Aurelius Coworks