Artists’ coworking space, gallery, and concert room nears opening in downtown Port Huron

Though she may be widely known throughout the region as the entrepreneur responsible for escape room and entertainment company The Hallway Entertainment, it was photography that Carol Hall studied in school.

She had to work to put herself through college, she says, and paying for her own photography studio was simply not an option.

It’s her latest project, Foundry, where her passion for entrepreneurs, artists, and the Blue Water Area converge.

“When I was a broke college kid, I couldn’t afford my own studio. And in the winter months, Michigan is not a good option for shooting portraits outside,” Hall says.

“Thinking back to 20-year-old Carol, she would’ve loved something like this, where you don’t need a lot of money to build your own full studio.”

Foundry is a sort of coworking space for artists, makers, and creatives, a place where the arts are accessible and vision more easily realized.

Located in the old Studio 1219 building in downtown Port Huron, Foundry is poised to become the new home for St. Clair County creatives. Work has been underway since late winter to transform the space into a hive of creativity, a series of rooms with each dedicated to a different creative pursuit.

Like a coworking space typical of the entrepreneur community, Foundry will be available to rent hourly, by the day, or by the month, with different levels of membership guaranteeing various benefits, including access to event space, retail space, personal storage space, and more.

There is a painting studio, pottery studio, multimedia studio for photo- and video-editing, and podcasting studio. Each is outfitted with much of the equipment necessary for the tasks at hand, including easels, pottery wheel and kiln access, lighting equipment, microphones, and more.

“The thought for these rooms is to bring artists and creative people together so they can be inspired by each other,” Hall says.

The idea for Foundry came about in January or February of this year, though variations had been percolating for years prior.

Hall’s original intent was to merge the art and entertainment worlds together, bringing some of her Hallway Entertainment escape rooms to the space. But the COVID-19 pandemic squashed that idea, forcing her to shift gears. The two will remain separate for the foreseeable future.

Hall has gathered much of her inspiration from her neighbors The Roost and The Hatch, two coworking spaces located just a few steps from Foundry. Although Hall has her own building for Hallway Entertainment, she says that she is also a member of Port Huron’s coworking community.

Her own entrepreneurial pursuits have thrived because of co-working, she says. Coworking has enabled networking opportunities that otherwise would have been lost had she stayed sequestered in her own building.

“The people I’ve met co-working have helped me get to where I am. I’ve met marketing geniuses and tech wizards,” Hall says.

“Being able to meet people at co-working spaces has been extremely beneficial. That’s the idea at Foundry, to take that and apply it to artists.

“Maybe someone in pottery will run into a photographer that works upstairs and they can trade money or skills to benefit each other. That is the dream. The day that happens, I’ll be so excited.”

That’s another purpose of Foundry, to help tenants not only grow as artists but as entrepreneurs, too. Hall hints at future programming with partners like Blue Water Startups & Entrepreneurs to help artists earn money from their works. Their proximity to the entrepreneurs at The Roost and The Hatch doesn’t hurt, either.

Foundry won’t be an insular space closed off to the outside world. Space for retail and a gallery will regularly invite the public inside. A stage is currently being built upstairs to complete a listening room for live music.

Hall is currently putting together the finishing touches on an event that will introduce Foundry to the public on Saturday, Nov. 14.  The ticketed event will include live music performances from local artists and interactive raku pottery stations where guests can customize their own pottery bowls. On-site tours will be offered with refreshments planned.

The event is open to the public and tickets are available online.

As for Foundry itself, the expected opening date is Friday, Nov. 20. Artists can begin registering for their own spaces on Sunday, Nov. 1.

Until then, Hall and her team will continue renovating the space and getting it ready for its future tenants. And all the while continuing to run The Hallway Entertainment, too.

“There’s no greater feeling than opening here. I have two small kids here. I grew up here. You know, everyone hates on their hometowns. I moved back here after college and I found that I love this area. We’re lucky to live here,” Hall says.

“I want to make Port Huron a place where my kids will want to stay, to make it a place that is awesome and fun and where kids will want to stay as adults one day.”