Rachelle Beaudoin, a local professional artist and founding member of a community Makerspace in Peterborough, Monadnock ArtXTech, presented to an Arts Alive! Artist to Artist event, facilitated by Arts Alive! and The Hannah Grimes Center. Also present at the event was Johnny Bolster, director of Make It So, downtown Keene’s Makerspace.
What is a Makerspace?
Makers are artists, inventors, entrepreneurs, crafts folk, techies, etc. - basically anyone who innovates and then creates. The Maker movement is growing throughout the country and encourages creative thinking, collaboration and the use of shared resources to access new technologies.
Makerspaces allow Makers to access tools and equipment that they might not otherwise be able to get their hands on.
Why do we need Makerspaces?
“These sorts of spaces allow for experimentation without the financial investment - and provide a great opportunity for alternative education,” says Johnny.
Rachelle adds, “Cost is prohibitive to own your own high tech equipment. You might invest in something if it is in your long term business plan, but this allows you to try it out before making that big commitment.”
Rachelle discussed her recent project Positive Affirmation Underwear which was created in collaboration with Miss Baltazar’s Laboratory, a feminist hackerspace in Vienna Austria. For the Positive Affirmation Underwear project, Rachelle required computer parts, conductive thread, speakers, and underwear. And she needed a place to put it all together. Miss Baltazar’s Laboratory is a women-only Makerspace that provided her the space, tools, and most importantly, the peer support that she needed to make her art.
A key element to the Maker movement is collaboration and interaction with peers. “I think people are feeling isolated, especially behind all the technology in this world. Even though Makerspaces acts as a home to technology they are really about building a community.” says Rachelle.
Both Johnny and Rachelle have emphasized their spaces make use of welcoming common areas and perks like providing coffee to bring people who are using the space together to share ideas and commune on projects.
Also, both spaces provide training and supervision on any and all hardware and software available at the spaces. The Peterborough space is more focused on Art & Technology, the Keene space will focus on innovating products & manufacturing - particularly woodwork, metalwork, and ceramics. Johnny and Rachelle see this as an opportunity to not only connect with individual artists and entrepreneurs, but also as a way to potentially provide a service to the larger manufacturers by offering professional development trainings in new technologies to the local workforce.
Rachelle affirms that arts are an important element in education and innovation. “What we’re doing with the Makerspaces - we want to turn the S.T.E.M. education initiative into S.T.E.A.M., to incorporate arts into the acronym that typically stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. The arts are just as important.”