Concerning the Lawrence Creates Makerspace

January 29, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

[This is the first cut of our submission for city funding, beginning next April. I hope you will find it informative and accurate. Lawrence Creates can be truly great, and here is why.]

That is the name of the organization. You might call it the program, as the application requires. I will skip the basics here, as they will be addressed in another section of the application. Here, I would like to explain just what it is that we do, and what we would like to do, and what we would like to continue to do. The biggest part of the place is the fact that it has the equipment and materials and the space to accommodate working adults in their endeavors. It has many sections: a woodshop, art and display gallery, design studio, and plenty of computers with the Adobe Cloud Suite, useful for anyone wanting to use Photoshop or Indesign. Useful for editing photos, making presentations, or designs.

So, it is essentially a workshop. The model is similar to that of a gym membership: the member, paying a simple fee of $20/month, is welcome to enter the workshop at any time, 24 hours a day, and pursue their projects. It is tech and practical and art oriented. Some similar makerspaces have tended to focus on one of the these aspects, and appeal to a small subset of the population. Most often this sort of thing happens in larger cities where the individual is one of many, who though having a specialized interest, find others as interested to justify a building devoted to them. We have a smaller community here, and it makes sense to combine these things. As a result, we have found that many interesting things happen when people of quite disparate creative talents get together over “beer and pizza”. Some of the most interesting ideas you've ever heard have come from this very space already. We have been in operation for the last year, with very little funding. All infrastructure improvements have come from the actions of the people who believe in the idea. Which makes us already one hell of a success story. We welcome anyone and everyone to see what we have made, out of pure guts and grease. The space was essentially empty when we arrived, but through the actions of our core members, we have made it into what is already possibly the most unique and varied venue in all of Kansas. We have a monthly showcase on Final Friday, and it has gotten better and better every month. In April, we had about 1000 visitors. We have already made our mark in East Lawrence, and the whole community supports what we do.

Many organizations have partnered with us for events: the Lawrence Public Library, the Social Service League, the Lawrence Art Guild, the Northeast Kansas Library System, and the Sustainability Action Network. And that is just so far. Hundreds of independent artists and craftsmen and entrepreneurs have come through our doors and found a home for an event or a project or to be members themselves. Lawrence Creates has become a home for many people who have few other places to pursue their creative needs. Because we are all-inclusive, inexpensive, and to be quite honest, absolutely, astonishingly brilliant. We have been attracting the best sort of attention for some time now. And all of it with only a modicum of marketing, outreach, and sales. Most of this comes from the fact that we are a “bottom-up” organization, that rarely gives orders to its members. Thus, people are only here when they want to be. This has its advantages and disadvantages. Namely, that it is quite enjoyable to be about with the members during our hours of interest. There is never a dull moment, and people get along, and things get done. And it allows people to pursue projects of their choosing, but which rarely happens to be marketing or outreach.

This is the most important way in which the funds we may receive from the city would go. The building, the organization absolutely needs someone or two, an employee, who is paid to be on the premises during business hours. To handle phone calls, to give guided tours of the workshops, keep an eye on individuals using the equipment, staff the art gallery, maintain the website, keep updated calendars, organize the members during events, and other duties. Ideally, we would like to hire two part-time positions, so that the person does not get burned out. Also, considering that most of the members have multiple jobs themselves, and the varied nature of the space itself, seems to imply that the person who would like to work there might have other pursuits.

Which brings me to the most important part of this letter. I implore you, sirs and madams, that the idea behind the organization of Lawrence Creates is that of an intrinsic good that meets the needs and wants of the community, in more ways than you could ever imagine. By these virtues:

* It provides a place for individuals to create what they wish: objects or contraptions or inventions made of wood, metal, plastic, glass. Any and all material that might be shaped or molded into something more refined. Objects of clay and stone and fabric, computer programs and algorithms, electrical devices, energy sources. Hypotheses and experimentation. All of these things may be pursued at the leisure of the member, and shall all, in there entirety, be supported by others, especially in the case of unique and innovative ideas. The grounds support collaboration, and the members foster and steward each others' projects. If for none other reason than simply providing the place for a creative individual to work, it stands to reason that this workshop ought to be publicly funded, and well-funded, considering the number of creative people in Lawrence.

*Not everyone has the finances to rent a studio and build a workshop of the highest caliber. It simply cannot be done by everyone. Just because one is not rich and lacking the resources does not mean they are not deserving of a place to exercise their intellect and creative prowess. This idea, in itself, the practical manifestation of a community workshop should be a point of pride in our community, in that we allow and support a shared space for people to better themselves and their city, through learning and practicing. In addition, those people who were once lacking the resources, need no longer be so, given the right materials and equipment and the space to engage themselves; with us, they can provide for themselves. Lawrence Creates provides this avenue to the community, a wholly different approach to self-actualization and creation. We provide 13 or more years of public education for the people of Kansas. We represent public application.

*We have massive potential, in general, here in Lawrence. We are a medium-sized town with a population of extremely educated and creative people, whose main wish is to do good by themselves and their community. We must foster that spirit. We have the funds available to pursue this act of ours, to put ourselves in a place few other, if any, cities in the U.S. are, or have been. It seems, in fact, a wonder that we have not done such already, though perhaps we have just been waiting for the right time. The 21st century is upon us. Do we want to pursue the same old tired policies that all the other cities in this country put on the hot seat? Do we really expect people to come from all over the world to see the new Arby's on 6th street? Or do we want to try a new direction? Put our money where our spirit is, and reap the rewards? The drive is already there. No need to force learning, but to fund application. If one would like to see money come to our town, more that is, this is the way to go as well. If the city puts their faith in this endeavor, and other endeavors that share the same spirit, people will come from far and wide to simply see what we have done. And more so, to come and stay, and contribute to what they see to be the good pursuit. Our Final Friday events have drawn thousands of people, and all with only the limited resources we've had previous. Guts and grease have brought us this far; blood, sweat, and tears spent to public utility, for the glory of our city.

At the precipice of a new awakening, the world knows naught what it has not seen. I warrant, it is our charge to display, to justify the growth so wished, to take the lessons of the past, applied to the future, by our own reasoned dedication, to take the reins active, and show the world what art in the 21st century really means.




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