At the heart of the idea of a makerspace is community. A makerspace is loosely defined as a space where people can come together to use resources, create something, and learn from each other. Users of the space cross-pollinate, inspiring each other and even collaborating and sharing skills to bring about ideas that might not have seemed possible before.
Artech has fashioned its own model of this concept, expanding it to include business.
The large warehouse it occupies is bustling with activity. Three years ago, when founder Ryan Adams moved in, he thought he would develop it commercially—starting with metal and glass shops.
However, in June 2015, Artech was officially established as a nonprofit organization spearheaded by a group of innovative, passionate artists.
“I had an idea for a long time to have a multidisciplinary work and community space,” Adams said. “Right now, we are testing out a model that we think really works.”
It’s clear just from looking at the space that creative businesses are interspersed with individual artists. In the front of the building, there is an in-progress gallery space. Just beyond that, aerial silks—and an aerialist—hang from the ceiling in a room that contains a hot shop area for furnace glass, a lampworking area, and tools for working with neon. The next section of the warehouse is shared by a researcher making single crystal silicon that gets sliced into wafers for the semiconductor industry and a production area containing laser cutters, which is occupied by Tahoe Wood Maps. An adjacent area is divided by multiple shipping containers to create more separate work areas for individuals and groups. Current projects underway include art cars and pieces to take to the Burning Man festival.
In one corner, a large bamboo hand is taking shape as part of an art car by Dream Community, a collective from Taiwan.
Outside, there is ample yard space and even a foundry in the back.
“It’s proving to be a really nice alternative to just working in a box by yourself,” Adams said. “There is the added value of having a community, but each person is responsible for their own stuff.”
Adams emphasized the importance of maintaining balance between businesses and temporary space. Underpinning this is the idea that artists benefit from being exposed to the business aspect of art, and that connections made from this arrangement can benefit everyone involved. It’s kind of an experiment.
Another of Artech’s goals is to extend its community via education, tours, workshops and residencies.
“I don’t want to become focused on education,” Adams said. “I don’t want it to be relied on as a big source of revenue, but more just to have some outreach and communicate with other people. Every time we have classes or workshops, new connections and networks are formed.”
In the fall, Artech will offer classes in glassblowing, sculpting, neon, metalworking and other topics.
Artech’s board members have many ideas for how the space can expand and evolve. As the warehouse has fill up with new projects and tenants, Adams has realized the potential for running out of room.
“Once we have to turn something cool away, it’ll be a bummer,” he said.