Builds a Foundation for Invention
Matt Kenigson visits the 2016 Maker Faire Producers Summit.

Make Nashville originally started in 2012 as a co-op to gather makers to share their projects with fellow creatives and create. By 2013, the first Nashville Mini Maker Faire was organized. Now, Make Nashville, with its nonprofit designation in hand, is setting its sights on a big goal: a community makerspace.

We spoke with Matt Kenigson, president of Make Nashville, about where his organization is headed and what the spirit of the maker movement is really about.

What’s the current status of Make Nashville? In 2015, we got our nonprofit designation in December, and the 100 Founders fundraising campaign for the makerspace was a resounding success. T. Scot Clausing, a great benefactor, stepped up after 2015 Nashville Mini Maker Faire to double all of those donations from our campaign. We had a good year.

As far as 2016 goes, we are off to a big start already. Internally, we had our first board retreat and set our five-year strategy as well as our shorter-term tactical goals. We also stood up a number of committees that are now absorbing and focusing the work of the growing number of folks working hard to make Make Nashville a great organization. We are continuing to meet every week and working on the opening of the makerspace as well as our meetings, workshops, events, and partnerships.

Our January meeting, themed around Star Wars in honor of the massive success of “The Force Awakens,” had a record number of show-and-tell participants. It included 3D prints of BB-8 parts, a couple of “Rey Guns” (the blaster design used by Rey’s character in the movie), a 7-foot long star destroyer, an R2D2 unit, and much, much more, including Darth Vader helmet chocolate cherry cordials. Those 3-D printed chocolates are now becoming a workshop scheduled for March 5, in partnership with Nomzilla. It’s really exciting!

We’ve already participated in the Adventure Science Center‘s Doctor Who-themed Wibbly-wobbly Way Late Play Date event, as well as their Engineering Day. Upcoming February and March informal meetings will include learning about stop-motion animation and playing with Blender (an open source 3D content-creation program). In April, we’re tentatively scheduled to take over abrasiveMedia‘s space in Houston Station for Art Crawl.

What do you plan to have in your first makerspace? We are still validating what the community wants, but in general we plan to have space for traditional crafting (woodworking, metalworking, welding) as well as advanced manufacture (3D Printing, CNC machines, laser cutting and etching), an electronics lab, a fabric play lab, a young maker area, and space for meetings, events, and performances.  

Who is this space for? We believe that there are six main kinds of folks who will participate in the makerspace (most members will have overlap):

  1. Hobby/Casual Makers: range from crafters who make for fun or to share their creations with friends to large collaborative projects like The Full Scale Millennium Falcon Project.
  2. Professional Makers: people who make things for resale, such as craftsmen, artisans, performers, and professional artists
  3. Families and other social groups: people for whom making is a social activity; a way to bond with the people they care about; making is a means to a social activity: the end result is secondary
  4. Inventors and Entrepreneurs: people looking for advanced tools to allow them to rapidly prototype, create products, or prove a business concept
  5. Learners: people looking to gain a skill, gain inspiration, or benefit from the knowledge of the community; for some this is a casual pursuit, while for others this could lead to a job or a career
  6. Mentors, Educators, and Community-Builders: people looking to share their knowledge, craft, enthusiasm, and love of making and the maker community; STEAM educators; people with a passion to grow the community.

How is Make Nashville’s makerspace different from the other spaces?  We are different from Fort Houston in that their business model is primarily focused on the professional maker community. They also support many artists, crafters, and the maker community directly and indirectly. We consider them great members of the maker community and have partnered with them on various things including advocating for them when they had trouble with their zoning, working with Metro Planning to help shape what became the Artisan Manufacturing legislation, and putting on the Replication Juried 3D Printed Art Show.  

We are different from the planned makerspace at the Vanderbilt Innovation Center in that they’re primarily going to be focused around specific experiential learning opportunities for their students, with more technical tools and analytical tools that are explicitly useful for specific modeling and industrial tasks…

In short, we’re likely to be a space that is a bit more laid back, a bit more experimental, and where a broader range of projects get worked on.  It’s also a place where some who have some amazing ideas will come to steep in the community and relative lack of boundaries (contractual, intellectual, creative).  

Why is a makerspace important for the community? We believe that making is a radically inclusive activity, so we want to make sure that everyone from all walks of life can come and participate:  All ages, all nationalities, all races, all backgrounds, rich and poor, experienced and inexperienced. We plan to introduce mechanisms for folks who can afford it to help create opportunities for those who cannot to participate. We will also have various internships, volunteer opportunities, and maker-in-residence opportunities to allow folks who cannot afford the membership fee to work in exchange for access.

Fundamentally, we believe that making is a transformative activity, both on an individual level (making transforms who you are) and a social level (making transforms the community, city, and region). Our goal is to encourage more people to make and to encourage people to make more. Makers gonna make.  

See our accompanying article about all the maker spaces in Nashville.

Make Nashville Builds a Foundation for Invention