Creative solutions drive this innovation center
By Jessica Laskey
Next time you’re strolling Front Street in Old Sacramento, stop at the Art Café at Atrium 916.
You won’t be served food. You’ll be served art—a ball of clay or a canvas and paints to bring out your inner artist.
“I wanted there to be a place where people can come and just hang out and make art and connect with others,” says Shira Lane, the Israel-born, Australia-raised founder of Atrium 916. “Art can be isolating and intimidating, so the Atrium is designed to be zero-barrier and as accessible as possible. Just walk in and ask a question. We’re like the atrium of the heart: As you go through us, you get more oxygen.”
Lane didn’t intend to open a full-service creative, innovation center for sustainability, but that’s what she built. The documentary filmmaker worked in Los Angeles and San Francisco before arriving in Sacramento in 2016. She saw the local talent and was inspired to create Upcycle Pop, an artistically oriented recycle market.
“I thought it would be a one-time thing for my own happiness, but the artists really liked it and the landlord really liked it and asked if I’d consider creating a coworking space in the building until it was sold,” Land says. “At first it seemed like too much work, but the artists really wanted it, so I said as long as it was completely zero-waste and could host art installations educating people on sustainability, then I’d be interested in putting in the effort.”
Lane focuses on organic sustainability. In 2006, she worked on a feature documentary about the dairy industry—inspired by her own dairy allergy—and she “fell down the rabbit hole.” She learned how unsustainable the food industry is.
That led to work with organizations such as Bono’s (RED) and Earthjustice to “do everything that I can to help drive us (to more sustainability),” Lane says. “We all dream of that beautiful future, but how do we get there? When I take my last breath, I want to know I did all that I could.”
Atrium 916 is a big part of how Lane realizes her dream. The coworking space on Folsom Boulevard grew into a hive of 18 community organizations, so Lane incorporated as a nonprofit in 2019 with a name inspired by the building’s light-filled atrium.
When COVID-19 hit, city officials asked Lane if her artists would sew masks for free to distribute to the public. Lane suggested they set up a marketplace where the masks could be sold for a modest price to make sure artists were fairly compensated.
That grew into a $35,000 operation. Lane expanded to include other items made in Sacramento. There are now more than 115 makers represented in the Atrium’s online marketplace, Sacramento.Shop.
Atrium 916 moved to Old Sacramento at the height of the pandemic when the Folsom Boulevard building was sold and in-person marketplaces were shut down. It’s one-tenth the size of the previous building, which means the studio spaces are full, but Lane says there are expansion plans afoot and that Sacramento.Shop is still a great way to support creatives. Atrium’s staff provides mentorship.
Atrium is home to a gallery of rotating exhibits, plus open mic nights, jam sessions, workshops and business roundtables. During the pandemic, Atrium was the lead advocacy group on securing CARES and ARPA funds for local artists. They hosted creative economy meetings for the city “to make sure they could actually hear the creatives.”
Lane’s plans include a TV series highlighting local artists, a mobile art café and creative recycling solutions throughout Old Sacramento.
“We’re constantly piloting these programs intersecting art, sustainability and economic development,” Lane says. “We’re exposing people to the fact that, hey, sustainability is possible. It’s not as hard as you think.”
Atrium 916 is located at 1020 Front St. For information, visit atrium916.com.
Jessica Laskey can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.