From the colorful sticky notes on the walls to the soft music filtering through the brightly lit studio, the Hive feels very different from any other space at the Claremont Colleges. Here, the building is decorated with tiny potted succulents and filled with people painting, sewing and doing what they love.
Members of the 5C community have not had access to physical campus resources for over a year. Now that students have returned, the Rick and Susan Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity — commonly known as the Hive — has reopened its doors.
To celebrate their relaunch, the Hive held a week-long event that welcomed people from all across the 5Cs to try their hand at dorm decorations, jewelry making and even succulent potting. Organizing large-scale events amid an ever-changing landscape of COVID-19 restrictions is no easy task, and the team at the Hive had to overcome multiple administrative hurdles. Eventually, however, people were able to walk through the Hive’s doors again.
“When the first wave of people came in, I was like, ‘Ah, I haven’t seen people in here for a long time!’” said Linda Shimoda, the Hive’s creative platforms designer who has worked with the Hive since its inception almost eight years ago. “But then when I went out, I was mingling, and though we all had masks on, I loved it. I could see that the magic of the Hive is starting to come back.”
Riley Knowles PZ ’22, a student staffer who helped design the Hive’s orientation events, was surprised by the number of upperclassmen who came.
“Some had never heard of the space or had never been in it, especially juniors who had only been on campus for half a year,” Knowles said. “It was cool to see them explore the space for the first time too.”
Succulent potting, in particular, was unexpectedly popular.
“We went out, like, eight times a day to get more succulents and pots,” Knowles said. “It was so exciting to see people talking and being creative in the space again.”
Over 500 people came into the Hive to decorate succulent pots during the week of relaunch, but the Hive has even more fun, cute activities to offer. Upcoming events include various skill shares, where people with any amount of experience can sign up to learn skills like metalsmithing, podcasting and printmaking.
“We have such an incredible array of student staffers this semester that are passionate about so many different things, like woodworking, sound recording and sewing,” Knowles said. “I think people are hesitant to come to this space because they don’t know how these things work, but the staff is just so knowledgeable and excited to help people out.”
One event that Margaret Kraus SC ’22, another member of the Hive’s student team, is looking forward to is the plant-based dyes workshop. “I feel like a lot of people, including myself, are interested in ways that art can be more sustainable and create less waste,” Kraus said.
The Hive values repurposing and recycling, and another event that exemplifies this is the art failures swap, where people can bring in “failed” art projects and swap ideas and pieces. “It’s all about having something good come out of failure,” Shimoda said.
However, while the Hive is an excellent makerspace that offers many opportunities, its role in the 5C community goes beyond that and focuses on creating connections between people.
“Anyone who is involved with the 5C community knows how separate we all are, even though we’re just across the street from each other,” Shimoda said. “One thing that Rick Sontag was very interested in was bringing together a diverse, wonderful group of campuses. … The idea is that we can create solutions that might cover more or do better, or be more applicable across many complex real-world problems.”
Shimoda also wants more people to be aware of the role of human-centered design in the Hive.
“Even when someone comes in just to use the crafts and the materials, we hope that people will start thinking of us beyond that now,” Shimoda said. “We want to include more classes using human-centered design and design thinking and get more existing classes to transform or enhance their classes to incorporate this.”
“This is not the ‘art center’ of the colleges; this is a radical space where everyone can bring together many areas of interest.”—Margaret Kraus SC ’22
Kraus echoed the sentiment that the Hive is more than a makerspace.
“You can go in and use a bunch of pencils, paints, paper, and you can do a lot of hands-on making, which is a large part of what the Hive does,” Kraus said. “But I think the message that is harder for people to grasp sometimes is that the Hive is also a center for collaborative creativity and design processes. Design is a tool. It’s a way to help structure anything, whether it’s images or schedules or even life.”
Perhaps one of the most important things about the Hive is its encouragement of freedom.
“The Hive serves as a space that counters typical institutional rigidity,” Kraus said. “It gives students permission to experiment and play and try new things and fail. This is not the ‘art center’ of the colleges; this is a radical space where everyone can bring together many areas of interest.”
And so, the Hive reopens its doors to the many interests of the 5C community.
“If you haven’t been to the Hive yet,” Knowles said, “you should come!”