Over the past several years I’ve had the opportunity visit several “makerspaces” and “makerlabs” in both Wisconsin and Connecticut and have been eyeing this growing movement from the sidelines. Just a couple of weeks ago I visited the new Spark Makerspace in New London as well as some downtown highlights including the funky freewheeling performance art venue, Hygienic Art and Fiddleheads Natural Food Coop. My tour was organized by colleagues Hannah Gant of Spark, Anna Perch from New London Main Street and Tammy Daugherty from the Office of Development and Planning. The galleries, murals, theaters and coffee shops tucked into New London’s charming main street district are evidence of a long lived and growing creative culture here.
Maker spaces seem to have their origins in the cooperative hacker movement in the 1990’s in Europe primarily for computer programmers to share information and ideas. Over the years maker spaces evolved from these origins to include spaces or organizations that share tools and technology such as 3-D printers, software, craft or hardware supplies, tools, as well as resources and and infrastructure like meeting and work spaces. Also called “techlabs” or fablabs” these spaces are governed by their own set of rules but, according to www.makerspaces.com, “…at the core, they are all places for making, collaborating, learning and sharing.” Maker spaces have been promoted as a strategy for entrepreneurship to reduce the costs of startup, product development and design. As centers of research, innovation and creativity, many libraries have even joined this movement to offer permanent or temporary maker labs for children and adults.
During my visit to Spark in New London I was greeted by three lively young men who were busy renovating the former El n Gee nightclub into a community run workshop. A brightly lit room was filled with wood working equipment and tools, much of which had been donated or procured from basement clean-outs and yard sales. While the learning center is open to the general public, members pay monthly dues and may access a wood shop, commercial kitchen, 3D printers, CNC machine and laser cutter, robotics lab, screen-printing equipment, shared office space, and retail space. Spark acquired the space in October 2015 and hopes to open in the Spring of 2016.
Spark is not the only makers space in Connecticut and I hope to have the opportunity to see how other spaces are building a creative culture in Connecticut’s communities! Read a 2013 article on the rise of the Maker Space movement by Hartford Courant’s Matt Pilon or check out whiteboardct which also maintains a list of co-working space, incubators, and maker spaces. Here are links to other Connecticut maker spaces (don’t see your link here? Let me know!)
- Spark Maker Space – New London, CT http://www.spark.coop/ “Spark Makerspace is a community run workshop and learning center open to the general public. Members pay monthly dues and get access to a full woodshop, commercial kitchen, 3D printers, CNC machine and laser cutter, robotics lab, screen printing equipment, shared office space, retail space and much more.”
- CT Hacker Space – Watertown, CT http://www.cthackerspace.com/- CT “Hackerspace is a DIY and Technology oriented group located in the US State of Connecticut . Our Mission is to provide a physical location where community members interested in technology can gather to collaborate on projects both physical and conceptual.”
- MakeHartford – Hartford, CT http://www.makehartford.com/ “It’s a gym for geeks and creative people. Instead of free weights and dumbbells we have 3d printers, CNC machines, and a wood/metal shop to build and create in. MakeHartford is Hartford, CT’s first maker space, i.e. community of artists, technologists, and entrepreneurs for hands-on innovation.”
- MakeHaven – New Haven, CT http://www.makehaven.org/ “MakeHaven works to educate the community through interest-driven projects and hands-on skill building experiences in mechanics, electronics, crafts, art, design, programming, cooking, biology, chemistry, fabrication, metalworking and woodworking.”
- Westport Library Makerspace – Westport, CT “The MakerSpace opened July 2012 as a place for people to connect, invent and create. It’s a great way to use your Library, in addition to finding books and movies, working, viewing art, meeting friends and attending programs. Stop by and learn about the 3D printer, which prints physical objects from digital files. People of all ages have come to watch demonstrations of the printer, and to learn how to design and print their own creations! See the calendars below for all of the Maker events.”
- Danbury Hackerspace – Danbury, CT http://danburyhackerspace.com/- “The Danbury Hackerspace @ the Innovation Center is a hackerspace and co-working facility at 158 Main Street, connected to the Danbury Library. The City of Danbury has graciously provided the space to help launch the hackerspace and build a community of entrepreneurs, makers, craftspeople, & artists. We are now open for membership.”