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April 26, 2012
techshop detroit: 'makers' of dreams
TECHSHOP DETROIT: 'MAKERS' OF DREAMS KATIE DONOVAN THURSDAY APRIL 26th, 2012 If you count yourself among the many who dream about making something – a work of art, a gizmo or gadget, a better mousetrap, or even something more complex - you are a Maker. If you like to tinker, take things apart and figure out how things work – you are a Maker. If you are crafty, have an eye for design, or like working with textiles – you are a Maker. If you have these ‘maker’ impulses but have always been thwarted because you didn’t have the tools or know-how, great potential awaits you at TechShop, a new national workshop model opening its newest location right here in Metro Detroit’s Allen Park. TechShop provides Makers and Makers-to-be with the tools, space and assistance needed to ‘make’ dreams into reality. Chairman and Founder, Jim Newton, explains how TechShop came to be – “I live and work in California and had been working on the popular TV show MythBusters and was also teaching a class on combat robotics – through those two projects I had access to all sorts of great tools and resources. When those gigs ended, the most painful part was the loss of access to those tools and resources. I started thinking about how to build a business model that would support the cost of assembling all those great tools and a facility to house them. The idea of a gym membership model came to me in 2005 and in 2006 the first TechShop opened in Menlo Park, California.” Ford was instrumental in bringing TechShop to Detroit. Bill Coughlin, CEO of Ford Global Technologies Licensing, first became aware of TechShop in 2010, connections were made and the Detroit-area store was put on the fast track. “Our partnership with TechShop will connect Ford to the community of local innovators, and spark imagination that could be the solution to problems that we couldn’t solve before, or develop all new ideas that are answers to questions we weren’t even asking. In the future open innovation will play an incredibly important role in the progression of our company,” said Coughlin. TechShop Detroit is the latest location to open, and since December’s soft opening the Allen Park TechShop team has already signed up 600 members – their goal is 1000 in order to keep the workshop open 24/7. The tool array and workspace is impressive; there are tools to help you create almost anything. Members are using machining tools, woodworking, plasma cutters, welding equipment, electronics, laser etching tools to create in 2-d or 3-d, heavy duty textiles machines, plastic molding machines, and high-tech painting equipment. Members also enjoy a workshop that offers state-of-the-art safety gear and procedures, training on all the machines and a space plan and employee culture that encourages collaboration among members. Essentially, a Maker’s dreams come true. “One of the biggest surprises for me is the number of new companies that have been incubated in our TechShop locations,” said Jim Newton, Founder. “One of the great Tech Shop success stories is the guy that had an idea for a case for the iPad. He took a couple of classes and began to fabricate his design for the DoDo case.” This Tech-Shop member is now the owner of a multi-million dollar company. Karen Corbeill is the Education and Events Coordinator at TechShop’s new Metro Detroit location and has been there from the beginning. She says there are 15 employees and they are all creative types: ‘DIY-ers’, ‘hackers’ and ‘Makers’ that are driven to help the members. “This is what Detroit is all about…we have so many people that are part of this community with loads of talent and experiences but not necessarily with the resources. We have the resources here to feed that talent and ingenuity,” said Corbeill. Luciano Golia is a very recent transplant from Italy to Michigan, his wife is from Allen Park and the news about TechShop’s arrival influenced their decision to settle there. Golia has been a Maker of musical instruments for 24 years and recently completed a double bass at TechShop. He says his craft requires skills in carving, woodworking, music, and math. “The TechShop - it is a beautiful place and very creative,” shared Golia. “Technology and my work are not in alignment because every instrument is custom made, but the TechShop is nice because there are other people there making many different things and it is nice for a creative to be with other people working at different levels with different skills.” Golia sees the TechShop membership as a way to keep his business going while he and his wife are getting settled. Golia’s recommendation for other artists on using TechShop: “… it’s a tool for your creativity, it should be a great help for artists because any kind of prototype or piece of art could be created there thanks to the help of a team of very experienced people and great tools.” TechShop Detroit will be hosting a Grand Opening event May 5-6 from 10am to 6pm on Saturday and Sunday. (CLICK HERE for more details and a map) It is open to the public and there will be activities, tours and demonstrations appropriate for all ages. Exhibitions and Presentations will be offered by TechShop partners: Autodesk, Ford Global Technologies, Instructables, The Henry Ford Museum and Etsy. “We want people in here making their dreams,” said Corbeill. Newton has an even broader dream for TechShop. He imagines TechShop locations all over the country and has a vision of families that will see TechShop as a recreational opportunity. “Wouldn’t it be great to have families choosing an outing to the TechShop workshop from the list of possible family activities?”
REACHING AND TEACHING AT-RISK YOUTH KATE TYKOCKI THURSDAY APRIL 26th, 2012 A photojournalist by training Jeana-Dee Allen Rogers left Lansing after college to work at newspapers around the state. “It was an extremely dark time in my life. I photographed a lot of crime - homicide, suicide, fire - and in that whole period of that time, I would say 80 percent of the violent crimes I documented were committed by [young people] 15- to 25-years-old,” shared Allen Rogers. “I often asked myself what if these kids had been given greater access to resources. What if they felt more connected to their community by taking pictures or creating art or just having these resources where they could come together?” Allen Rogers is back in Lansing, but now as Outreach Coordinator at REACH Studio Art Center. Before then she was volunteering at a local middle school and was saddened by the lack of arts education for students. “They would have art class be braiding little bits of string together. That just really is a shame because the arts can teach so much,” said Allen Rogers. “There’s history involved in creating art. So it’s not just that you’re creating something with your hands. You’re looking at what you can create above and beyond yourself that can connect you as a human being to the rest of the world through your creation.” REACH is a studio art center located in REO Town, an area of Lansing just south of Michigan’s Capital Building, where the average per capital income is $17,158 and more than 40 percent of the residents have an income at or below 2 percent of the poverty level. REACH offers art classes, workshops and day camps to local youth and creates special community art projects, such as the mural and sculpture installation directly across the street from the facility. REACH also offers Creative Connections free art sessions where neighborhood children and teens can come together to paint, spin pottery, make music, write and perform plays and express themselves while also having a positive impact in their community. Another program helps high school drop-outs work to earn their GED through their involvement at REACH. In 2010, more than 900 youth participated in programs in REACH’s tiny 1,100 square foot studio. In 2013, the organization will move into a new space in REO Town that will give them up to 7,200 square feet to continue delivering quality arts education to local Lansing youth. The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth study released in March 2012 by the National Endowment for the Arts found teens and children of low ‘socioeconomic status’ who had a history of in-depth arts involvement showed better academic outcomes, earned better grades and demonstrated higher rates of college enrollment and attainment. And yet, schools around the state are struggling to provide arts education to students and budgets for field trips are being slashed. REACH is one organization trying to fill this arts gap for youth by working to improve its community while improving the lives of the young people it serves. “We’re struggling with kids that are homeless, kids that are in foster care, kids whose parents are incarcerated. Just life. There’s a lot of ‘life’ happening. If we can be this one space that encourages them to have a better day, to get away from something, to learn to express their feelings in a different manner and to feel like someone else is struggling too, it builds community and that’s the best thing we can do,” concluded Allen Rogers.
TRIPLE THREAT: ERIN WILSON KATIE DONOVAN THURSDAY APRIL 26th, 2012 A gifted writer and the current director of the historic Wealthy Theatre in Grand Rapids, Erin Wilson is gaining attention for some new initiatives in Grand Rapids art community. He has an interesting perspective on the larger impact of ArtPrize on the local artists. While few can dispute the juggernaut that is ArtPrize and its economic contribution to the area, Wilson feels the 18-day event with its major cash prizes and the pull of major artists from outside of the area, overshadows the community of local artists that are present in Grand Rapids, creating and producing the other 347 days of the year. For this reason and others, Erin Wilson and a core group of like-minded individuals had the vision to create a nonprofit organization for GR artists called ArtPeers. “The whole idea came out of some things that were missing here - peer support, and the notion that local artists have value. We have some brilliant people working here in Grand Rapids,” said Wilson. “What we’ve created is a conversation, to help local artists consider the true value of what they do and to find ways to create an appreciation for that value – even if the artist chooses to donate his/her time and/or works of art.” Wilson has been dubbed “Diaghilev” by his partner Amy, after the famed Russian art critic and impresario credited with co-founding the Ballet Russes in the early 1900’s. While the appeal of the name for Amy may have been because she herself is a dancer and choreographer (she is founder of the groundbreaking modern dance collective Dance In The Annex) - for Erin its appeal lies in the parts of Diaghilev’s life that relate to his tireless promotion of the arts - in many forms. Wilson humbly cites a quote attributed to Diaghilev about his contribution to the arts “…I make nothing and do nothing.” This is where the comparison to Diaghilev breaks down - Erin Wilson has many talents of his own – a visit to his website diaghilev.me will demonstrate the point. ArtPeers is currently working on several projects which align with its mission to “advance a culture that values local artists.” Plans include ongoing exhibitions – both physical and virtual - which showcase local artists and use local businesses as venues. These efforts will be presented on the website, which is designed to be a curated site and an open community, where participants will soon be able to post pictures and engage in conversations so that the site becomes a living archive of those who locally-produce Grand Rapids art. ArtPeers is now working on an untitled but in-progress video project. The video series takes the viewer into the homes of people with notable art collections which include many forms of locally made art, along with other more established works. The point is to demonstrate that local works of art are and should be taken seriously, alongside national and international works. The raw video for the first three installments of the project has been shot and the video project is now moving into post-production. “And this is not just about traditional, hanging art - we’re including ephemeral, multimedia and performance art in the series,” Wilson said. Look for news about the video project on the ArtPeers website ArtPeers.org, the produced installments are expected to be live on the site in May. What will be the markers of success for ArtPeers? “To be really honest, here in Grand Rapids, when there are far fewer emergency fundraising events to help local artists cover expenses for catastrophic health care costs, or basic living expenses for artists living on the edge of financial ruin - then we will know that there are more artists living a balanced creative and economic life and being supported by the greater community,” shared Wilson. “Sustainable like any trade, skill or craft that we value as a society and culture.” Erin Wilson believes that valuing local artists begins with the local artists themselves, how they speak about and value their work and how they support their peers.
JSO AND THE FINE ART OF DEVELOPMENT MARY KATHERINE QUASARANO THURSDAY APRIL 26th, 2012 In the heart of downtown Jackson, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon this past March, crowds gathered for the grand opening gala of the newly renovated Jackson Symphony Orchestra (JSO) Performing Arts Center. The afternoon was the culmination of a $4.2 million dollar community capital and endowment campaign led by JSO campaign chairs Pat and Phil Willis, Frederick and Debby Davis, and Tom and Nancy Evanson. Taking it all in was Mary Spring, who has proudly served for twenty years as the JSO Development Director. Her journey eloquently speaks to the power of community commitment and development as a fine art and the life blood of an arts organization. The JSO strongly self identifies as a “community organization,” and integrating music, music education and musicians into the community has been its mission and strength. Fewer cities in Michigan have been harder hit by the recessionary times of the past four years than Jackson. Reports of losses in manufacturing jobs have become regular and ongoing news headlines. That’s precisely what makes this crowning achievement in development and support of the arts so stunning. Spring expands, “The community embraces not only the JSO but numerous arts venues and on a percentage Jackson ranks with cities that have large artistic programs and much larger resource pools. I am continually amazed at the support we receive and the enthusiasm of the residents of the community towards the arts.” Spring’s first exposure to the JSO came through the gracious invitation of her employer Nathan Rosenfeld, the owner of Jacobson’s. At one time Jacobson’s served as the most luxurious shopping destination in Mid-Michigan, and Rosenfeld made Symphony tickets available to employees. Spring’s experience of the JSO led to the purchase of season tickets, and when she made the decision to stay at home with two small children, she decided to become involved as a volunteer with the Jackson Symphony Guild Board of Directors. She served as volunteer coordinator, chaired fundraising events, and assisted in the creation and launch of the JSO Community Music School. “When I was approached by the JSO to consider coming in as their Development Director, I frankly did not know what that meant. I did know that the JSO was a worthy organization, and as I learned more about the position, it became clear that ‘development’ meant going well beyond fund raising to include expanding and developing the role music plays in our community.” Spring credits Stephen Osmond, the “highly talented and forward-thinking Music Director” that she has worked with for these last 20 years as Development Director as teaching her that “the JSO community includes everyone we touch; music performance is only a portion of what it means to be an orchestra.” By JSO calculations, 90% of the JSO budget remains in Jackson and the surrounding area, and 75 musicians and 12 faculty members are in its regular employment. JSO ticket promotions include 11 local restaurants and the JSO participates in reciprocal programs with local entertainment venues as well. There is no greater visual statement to the vision of this Development Director and the JSO commitment to community collaboration than the water feature that graces the newly renovated Performing Arts Center. It was designed by local artist Steve Sayles, its assembly was donated by Midbrook, Inc., and all materials were donated by Alro Steel. It is described as “a piece of art that symbolizes the importance of collaboration between artist, musicians, manufacturing and corporations.” That statement also elegantly captures the gift, work and fine art of Mary E. Spring, JSO Development Director.