A place to make: Fishers panel talks importance, growth of makerspaces

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Joel Bruns has noticed the energy and innovation in Fishers with regard to entrepreneurship and makerspaces, so he organized a panel discussion focused on those topics.

Bruns, the innovation specialist at Westfield High School and creator of the school’s makerspace, held a Feb. 11 Maker Town Hall event at Hamilton East Public Library, 5 Municipal Dr., Fishers, with several key players.

A makerspace is a collaborative work space designed for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high-tech to no-tech tools.

Panelists included Aili McGill, executive director of Nickel Plate Arts; John Wechsler, founder of Launch Fishers; Katelyn Coyne, manager of the Ignite Studio in the Hamilton East Public Library’s Fishers branch; David Decker, founder of Hub and Spoke, a design center, coworking space and makerspace at 106th Street and the future Nickel Plate Trail in Fishers; and Megan Baumgartner, City of Fishers director of economic development. They discussed a wide range of makerspace topics, including defining what a maker is.

McGill noted that most artists worked alone prior to the emergence of makerspaces in Hamilton County.

“Because Indiana is not known as a hotbed for the arts, we had tens of dozens of arts professionals working here but working in isolation,” McGill said. “A huge percentage of the creative economy in Indiana are independent contractors, and it became clear once we started investing in resources, everything was going to take off.

“It also was clear there’s been a real hunger in igniting the maker community.”

Although makerspaces are expanding throughout Hamilton County, such as Ignite Studio in the HEPL basement and the soon-to-open Hub and Spoke, McGill said there’s still work to be done. 

“There are still so many holes out there of things and resources we need, finding places where people can access tools they can share and use on a production level,” McGill said. “(It) is something we still haven’t quite gotten online in this community.”

Coyne said during the 18 months the Ignite Studio has been open, artists have significantly benefitted from networking opportunities.
“We’ve seen the artists in the community be able to connect to the larger percentage of people who maybe don’t identify immediately as the creative type,” she said. “They are sharing their process and working with the community to bring in different types of creative processes, exposing people to the idea that they can incorporate same type of creativity in their work or start to see themselves as makers and creatives.

“Once you get out of grade school, you tend to lose that sense of risk-taking and willingness to self-identify as a creative type or as an artist.”

Besides artists, the maker movement also benefits communities.

“From the city’s perspective, what’s been really interesting is having these resources has been an economic development strategy,” Baumgartner said. “There are companies having memberships at Launch Fishers or at the Internet of Things Lab that are part of really big corporate structures where they see the value of having key people located in a coworking space or makerspace where they are surrounded by ideas and innovation.

“Being able to immerse yourself in something like that only continues to grow the culture here. There is a space here where somebody can pursue their passions.”

Creating an ecosystem

During the Feb. 11 Maker Town Hall panel, Launch Fishers founder Jon Wechsler and Hub and Spoke founder David Decker spoke about the ecosystem, which evolves when a community comes together in a coworking or a makerspace.

“Connectedness matters, and it matters in way more ways than we really understand today,” Wechsler said. “It’s something that matters in our community and bringing it together. If we all come at this from the greater-good perspective, I think it can really transform our community.”

Decker said there is tremendous value in a makerspace ecosystem, such as what Hub and Spoke will provide. Hub and Spoke will have a design center, a coworking component and a makerspace.

“It’s about helping kids and adults find their purpose and passion later in life,” Decker said. “There’s this opportunity for kids where kids are going to college and either dropping out with debt or graduating and coming out with a degree and saying, ‘You know what? I hate this field.’ How do we help them?

“It’s really experience and creating, and it’s expanded from there into this community campus concept.”


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