Onlookers in a co-working space

Bill Gnade / Sentinel Staff

Sculptures by Keene State graduate and city resident Andrew Kelsey, part of his “Constant State of Delirium” exhibit, adorn The Hive, a co-working space at the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship in Keene. The space, which opened in mid-March, features rotating artwork from area artists.

The first thing you see are the hexagons on the wall. They’re white, gray, burnt orange and a warm yellow color, arranged to form a jagged and sprawling polygon that resembles honeycomb.

At the center of the room, trapezoidal tables are placed so they form larger shapes — an octagon and a hexagon — where people will be able to work near one another and collaborate.

The room’s furnishings aren’t unintentional homages to the honey bee. This renovated area in the Hannah Grimes Center is called The Hive, a newly opened co-working space that’s got the Monadnock Region’s business community buzzing.

In the last decade, co-working spaces — shared working environments that members can access for a fee — have caught on throughout the country, particularly in urban areas.

Mary Ann Kristiansen, executive director of Hannah Grimes, said the organization decided to open a co-working space in Keene to help spur innovation in the region.

Kristiansen said the number of people starting businesses in rural areas “has dropped off a precipice. All the research shows the more you smash people together, the more ideas come out of that.”

The Hive is one of many of the Hannah Grimes Center’s initiatives to help small businesses in the area. The company’s incubator program provides entrepreneurs with office space, coaching and support to help accelerate business growth. Hannah Grimes also has a separate business mentorship program and leads workshops on finance and business development.

In establishing The Hive, Kristiansen said Hannah Grimes wanted to help take on a challenge many freelancers, independent employees or business owners without offices in the Monadnock Region face: constantly working in isolation.

“... Unless you want to hang out a coffee shop all day, there isn’t any place to work together,” she said.

That isolation prevents many entrepreneurs and employees in the region from meeting and exchanging ideas, which is one of the biggest challenges facing the business community, according to Kristiansen. The Hive’s primary goal is solving this problem, she said.

“Number one is pulling people out of their isolated corners into a place where they can build a more robust network,” she said.

While the space opened on March 16, access to The Hive was free until Saturday.

Kristiansen said she hopes the The Hive will eventually have about 50 paying members from different industries and backgrounds. A monthly membership to the space costs $100. Increased 24/7 access to the space costs $150. In addition, The Hive offers a daily use rate of $15, a weekly use rate of $25. It also has a corporate membership plan through which companies can pay a flat fee of $1,200 annually and $25 per employee, per month, to let their employees use the space.

According to Kristiansen, The Hive was designed to optimize discussion and collaboration among its members.

Machina Arts, a business that’s a part of Hannah Grimes’ incubator program and specializes in interactive art gallery creation, interior design and event planning, designed the space.

“The idea behind the space was to have a nature-infused design, so everything replicates nature in some way,” Danya Landis, the co-founder of Machina Arts said.

About 20 thin white birch tree trunks foraged and donated by Wichland Woods, a Keene-based mushroom business, are lined up on either side of a door frame. They provide a de facto barrier between The Hive’s bathrooms and its main work room.

More than a dozen green chairs placed throughout the room with tree branch-like plastic designs “echo” the birch trees, according to Landis.

The hexagons on the walls forming the honeycomb patterns are actually acoustic panels made out of wool and wood that help soundproof the space.

Move to the back of the room and climb a short flight of stairs, and you’ll find two connecting rooms. They’re cozy with only a few chairs. One of them overlooks Roxbury Street with a large window.

The Hive is adorned with art, from a temporary sculpture installation by Keene-based artist Andrew Kelsey to 23 colorful paintings by another Keene artist, Craig Stockwell.

One corner of the room will serve as a stage for monthly musical performances the The Hive plans on hosting, according to Landis.

The space will also host weekly networking nights on Fridays between 5 and 7 p.m., complete with cocktails served at a bar in the room.

She said bringing in culture and entertainment, and encouraging “healthy social interactions” among professionals are an important parts of The Hive’s offerings.

“Bringing in art and music and networking in a way that is going to promote collaboration and innovation, versus just having a drink,” she said.

Lisa Sieverts of Nelson, an IT project management consultant who works out of an office in Harrisville, said she plans on paying the daily rate to use The Hive a few times a month. She said it will be useful when she’s in Keene for the day or wants to take advantage of Hannah Grimes’ “great Internet.”

She previously rented out a conference room at Hannah Grimes to teach an online course through the Harvard Extension School because the center’s Internet connection is better than it is in Harrisville. She believes the superior Internet connection could be a draw for many rural workers in the region. She also said that as the owner and sole employee of her business, Facilitated Change, it will be nice to work in the company of others.

“Having the opportunity to come to a place like The Hive from time to time and just have the experience of working around other people is a nice change,” she said.

Xander Landen can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1420 or at xlanden@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @XLandenKS.