Announcing Designbox 3

Designbox moves to a new space with a refined focus on creative community


Designbox has moved to its third location at 307 West Martin Street—just a block away from the space they occupied for the last five years. The new locale features an inviting storefront and window display, an upgraded gallery and retail store presence, and a dedicated project space for member companies as well as scheduled projects and workshops for the community at large. The move is an opportunity for Designbox to refine its relationship with the dynamic creative community it has intensely supported and partnered with since its origination eight years ago.


Designbox continues to embody the ideal of collaborative workspace, bringing 14 creative professionals from the previous location. They include Gamil Design, a founding Designbox firm specializing in product design and brand launches including their own Gamila brand; founding member Paul Friedrich, a local artist and cartoonist; Dick Jenkins, residential and commercial architect; and Joulebug, a software developer focused on sustainable games and analytics.


“When Designbox was founded in 2003, our mission was to develop a collaborative approach that could awaken the creative community. By focusing on creative process, a spirit of cooperation grew and sparked a number of civic projects,” says co-founder Aly Khalifa.


Designbox hosted Keep-A-Breast, a community art project that raised $10,000 for breast cancer. The group also developed and led a number of workshops and ideation sessions about downtown Raleigh, the new Convention Center, Dorothea Dix, the new City Plaza and other now-established community spaces. Those sessions and others were designed to empower and enable creative input from diverse stake holders and the public.
“Designbox became a kind of a glue for joining together many different types of local talent. That glue is what enabled Designbox to create SPARKcon in 2006, an open-source celebration of local creativity and culture,” says Khalifa.
As Designbox moved into its second space in 2007, it made it’s home in the then-quiet Raleigh Warehouse District, and the creative focus of the group shifted from process to action. Part of that action included taking SPARKcon from experiment to city influencer.


“SPARKcon succeeded beyond our expectations even in its first year. In 2007, we began to understand two critical things: the creative community has the potential to have a significant economic and cultural impact, and Designbox has been great at launching new efforts within that community…but the only way to make our efforts expand horizons and engage tens of thousands of people is to make it sustainable…to let the idea grow beyond the capacity that we are able to dedicate to it,” describes Khalifa, about the impact and future of SPARKcon.

With that realization in mind, and after 5 years of exponential growth, in 2010 Aly and Beth Khalifa donated SPARKcon to the Visual Art Exchange. Under the stewardship of the VAE, SPARKcon has continued to fluorish and has grown in its dedication to open-source organization and leadership. It has become an international sensation, inviting inquiries from many cities on its organization principles. It was also recently described by Mayor Nancy McFarlane as an example of Raleigh being an Open Source City.


Designbox grew many other traditions from its second location. The Warehouse District became a critical part of any First Friday gallery walk, due, in part, to the monthly shows Designbox curated. As the years went by, Designbox was joined by Flanders, 311 Gallery, VAE and CAM, all within 2 blocks of each other, establishing the Warehouse District as a bustling arts district. Each May for the past 2 years, Designbox has hosted the PBaRt show, bringing a few thousand people to see a variety of local artists, musicians and performers make their own interpretations of the iconic beer. DB2 also partnered with Great Outdoor Provision Company to have Arcteryx, the high-designed outdoor equipment company from Vancouver, launch its new product line. Similarly, Pacific Design launched its nationally released Indie Artist series of MP3 cases for local artists Paul Friedrich and David Eichenberger. The success of these product launches led Designbox to expand its gallery space to include a retail environment in 2011 in order to foster the efforts of local brands, products and crafts and to introduce influential national and international design objects to the market.


The end of 2011 marked the end of the Designbox lease and the question of a move. “We have helped to develop a thriving neighborhood on Martin St and the Warehouse District. As we considered a move to a new space, our criteria included staying in the neighborhood and hopefully the same street. This criteria seemed potentially impossible, but we were able to find the perfect space just 5 doors down from where we were before. Our new space at 307 W. Martin St. fits our refined focus to bring design to the street. We now have a very inviting storefront, with big windows to showcase exciting things in the store and to interact much more than before with what is happening outside,” says Beth Khalifa, co-founder and curator of the gallery space.


Designbox 3 plans to use gallery openings to celebrate innovative art and design objects, to host launch parties, pop-up shops and to develop interactive experiences. There is a dedicated project space in the new Designbox to host open projects and invite makers and innovators to fabricate, craft and learn. The member companies plan to continue collaborating and influencing the cultural texture of downtown Raleigh, and there are already ideas in the works for co-creating projects with Martin St neighbors as well as the entire Raleigh Warehouse District.
Designbox 3 officially opens its doors to the public on First Friday, February 3, 6pm–9pm, with the show, “Mars Aint No Place to Raise Yer Kids: a benefit for Oliver Gant.”


Normal hours are Monday–Friday from 10am–6pm and Saturdays 12pm–4pm.
Location is 307 W. Martin St in the downtown Raleigh Warehouse District.
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