At the Intersection of Art and Business: The Provincetown Commons
Any day of the week you can stop by the Provincetown Commons at 46 Bradford Street and find the building alive with creativity, laughter… and quite a lot of hard work. The shared space is home to artists and entrepreneurs who all rent individual areas in which they—to coin the Commons’ tagline—create, innovate, and collaborate.
The story of the Provincetown Commons started with education: the building was a school and a community center before moving into its current incarnation. It was standing empty when in 2017 the town select board agreed to lease the former center to a nonprofit group with a vision of a home for creativity in Provincetown, a space for people to work collaboratively—or just in the company of other artists and thinkers.
The space comprises nearly 10,000 square feet of art studios, co-working facilities, and video conferencing rooms, as well as a large event space. Art is hung in the bright and airy Edie Windsor Exhibition Hall, and the artists’ studios are always full. “I love the magic of having artists in the same space as entrepreneurs, having them engage together, buy a piece of art,” says Executive Director Jill Stauffer. “We had the director of a recycling company working here and trying to decide on colors for bins—they were able to just go upstairs and confer with a couple of artists.”
That spirit of collaboration is reflected everywhere. “Downstairs there’s a lot of conversations around business challenges,” says Stauffer. “Dave is brilliant at helping connect a need with a resource. He’s always ready to help someone get a job, get a gig.”
“Dave” is, of course, Dave LaFrance, the Commons’ operations manager. “Dave and I balance each other well; we play off each other’s strengths,” says Stauffer. “He’s good at relationships and marketing, while I’m one hundred percent operational.”
LaFrance is all about connections. “What’s happened organically is a community has been created, people are naturally working together,” he says. “We’ve had a lot of success stories with artists who could supplement their rent here by selling artwork in the building. That’s one of our goals: to make creating and selling art more accessible to more people.”
To that end, the exhibition hall offers unrepresented and underrepresented artists the opportunity to show and sell their work. It works through an application (already filled for 2023!) and includes a nominal fee, with one-hundred percent of the proceeds going to the artist.
Companies use the meeting spaces for offsite presentations that can easily connect to a home office; professionals in the wellness community use them to get together with their clients.
But the Commons isn’t just about getting the work done; events and opportunities for participation abound. “We’re very excited about our community events,” says Stauffer. “Last year we hosted the Jimmy Lee fashion show. And there was a pie-eating contest we put together as a fundraiser—it was great fun! We asked 10 chefs to bake two pies each, one for judging and one for the auction. Saltine was the emcee, Kristen Becker was the auctioneer. We’ll do that again this year.”
Another event is a pitch contest organized by EforAll. “It’s essentially a free bootcamp for entrepreneurs,” says Stauffer. The two-hour event offers the opportunity to share ideas with a receptive audience and help early-stage entrepreneurs gain valuable exposure and feedback on a business idea, providing a great opportunity to network, validate a business idea, and compete to win a cash prize.
The Commons has benefited from the town’s growing year-round population, as second-home owners stayed in Provincetown to work from home during Covid, which in many cases became work-from-the-Commons instead. “We’re in assessment mode right now,” says Stauffer. “We’re running focus groups to make sure we’re meeting the needs of the community. We’re a learning organization—we’re always open to feedback.”
That spirit of giving, of acceptance, of sharing, and of optimism is endemic at the Provincetown Commons. And besides—it’s fun. All in all, says Stauffer, “no two days here are alike!”