In 2014, a few like minded individuals wanted to have a place to gather and create. Over the next two years, others joined and they researched Makerspaces, how to become a non-profit organization, started raising money and looking for a space.
In 2016, The Mankato Makerspace was born. In a 6,000 sq ft warehouse the co-founders of the Minnesota Makers and Artists Guild walked into the empty warehouse with almost no lights and fewer electric outlets and they began to design. They drew and redrew floor layouts for the workshops. They figured out how to keep an open concept under 16 ft ceilings while building individual workshops that included woodworking, metalsmithing, ceramics, glass blowing, jewelry making, textiles and leather working, screen printing and a finishing room.
That was just the beginning. Once the shops were built out, people started donating equipment and supplies. Many of the volunteers brought their own tools for members to use. Even before the Space was finished out, sessions called Meet Your Maker were held so that the community could get a feel for the Space to come and the instructors who would be teaching.
First there were a couple of classes a week. Now there are over 500 annually. Special events called Taste of the Makerspace offer speed dating for the arts. Those attending can try 9-10 different art mediums offered and see what sticks! Just one of the wonderful, crazy creative events that you’ll find at the Makerspace.
The mission statement includes providing the space, tools and expertise so that artists, makers and entrepreneurs can learn to make anything. It is that but it is also a Space open to everyone, from all backgrounds, LBGTQIA and BIPOC communities, veterans, those living under the poverty line, all ages, novices to experts. Everyone is welcome.
One goal was to create a place for young people to be able to safely learn in a potentially dangerous environment. Lots of electric tools, etc meant something special had to be done. Artists of Tomorrow was created while writing a grant. Saturday mornings before the Makerspace opens, a class for 10 students ages 6-12 would be offered. Often families can’t afford to pay for art classes so 6 seats would be half price at $15 and the grant would cover the other $15. The other 4 seats would be fully funded by the grant. Instructors would still make a good fee for providing quality art classes. No popsicle sticks here! OK, maybe one time for structure.
Painting, building kaleidoscopes, creating mini versions of Chihuly glass chandeliers out of recycled water bottles. The topics are widely varied and range from whimsical to introspective. The program is so popular that when it came time to apply for the grant again, the funding foundation called to say they took last year’s grant, changed the date and told us to make whatever changes we needed but please keep the program going. Now in it’s third year, we could double the number of classes but we don’t have the staff or the space.
The Mankato Makerspace is a membership based community art studio. People love the vibe. There is always someone there to help out, to cheer you on. People share their knowledge, their time and their enthusiasm. Not just the volunteer staff, who most have been involved since the beginning, but also the members love sharing ideas and advice. Some students love the leatherworking classes so much that they formed The Leather Club! It’s as hot as it sounds. They get together to work on their own projects, share the instructors’ tools and expertise and pay her for that privilege. A perfect solution to continuing a learning journey in an affordable way.
With success comes challenges and we are out of space. Seventeen instructors wanted to teach classes this year but there’s not enough space with only 1 classroom. Donations of equipment and supplies are turned away because physical space is maxed out. Next year, the expansion will begin. The Space will double to 12,000 sq ft. The new space expand into more of the existing warehouse. This will be a clean space, because no space shared with a woodshop is clean!
Three new large classrooms will be created for technology, textiles and a community use space for groups to meet as well as classes. There will also be 4-5 private studios spaces for lease. Studio space is dwindling in Mankato and people want to be a part of the Makerspace experience. There will be a gallery for the members to show and sell their works. The screen print shop will move to this space as their needs are not met by the space they are in now. Also, storage for member projects will be available. All these Spaces will be revenue generating to cover the additional rent/utilities.
The time is now and we need help to make this happen. Please consider giving to the Makerspace, to the artists in all of us.