At the Akron Makerspace, a person can build just about anything, the only limit being one’s own imagination.
Located at 48 S. Summit St., the Akron Makerspace occupies a 4,300-square-foot facility, a significant expansion from the two-car garage that initially housed this member-run organization.
It’s within throwing distance of Summit Artspace, tucked away from the bustle of Market Street, and removed from the buzz of traffic: an entity with its own gravitational pull and purpose.
The goals of the space are two-fold. First is to provide a place to work outfitted with all the necessary accoutrements so residents may practice crafting in a menagerie of different disciplines. Included in the facility is a complete wood shop with band saws, sanders and lathes; a metal shop that incorporates everything needed for cutting and shaping metal, as well as the equipment for jewelry work and silver soldering; a welding station that can be used for steel, stainless steel and aluminum; kilns for both ceramic and glass; an engraving machine; and a burgeoning electrical lab, all furnished with the appropriate tools and safety equipment.
The second goal is to provide a place for community engagement. The Makerspace is there to provide space, tools and training to people who may otherwise have had no access to it. The Makerspace is an indispensable resource to anyone interested in creating something: whether that’s an entrepreneurial endeavor as a small business owner, or someone working on an art exhibit, or even just someone who wants to learn how to weld for the sake of doing it.
Anyone, regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, race, skill level, occupation, economic standing or trade, is welcome at Akron Makerspace. They’re interested in covering all types of craft, for all types of people. This diverse tapestry of members ensures that anyone looking for help with a project should have no problem finding it.
Those wishing to become a member need only attend the Open House at the Makerspace that is held every Tuesday at 7 p.m. This will give a prospective member the opportunity to speak to current members, tour the facility and pick up a membership application. Then, after completing the application and paying the first month’s dues, prospective members receive a probationary status until they’re trained on the tools and equipment they plan to use.
After the first month, those on a probationary membership may attend a board meeting for an interview. Once approved by the board, a full member is granted access to the Makerspace outside of public hours, as well as storage space for projects, voting rights on the board and the opportunity to have a key made for them for a $25 one- time only fee. Membership is only $35 a month, and discounts are available for students and those enlisted in the military, as well as family discounts.
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the facility is staffed by volunteers, and the membership fees are used to maintain the space, buy tools and equipment and pay the rent, bills and other operating expenses. While it is open to the public for classes and events, using the space to its full potential makes membership a must.
Makerspace is here for everyone
Walking through the doors of Akron Makerspace, you’re met with a short hallway that doubles as a lobby, complete with signup sheets for classes that are held there and a pair of display cases occupied by pieces that have been produced onsite. The corridor empties into a common area, with a kitchenette in the right hand corner and a smattering of tables in the center. Against the left hand wall, a whiteboard stands, covered with writings and diagrams that are difficult for the untrained eye to decipher; remnants of one of the classes taught in the space.
A pair of televisions mounted on the right hand wall leer out over the scene in the common area. Above these are three lower case neon letters: ams. Underneath these silent sentinels sits the proprietor of the whole operation, Devin Wolfe, president of Akron Makerspace, giving a crash course on 3-D printing. After some quick introductions, I was assured that it wouldn’t be much longer and they got back to what they were doing.
Roughly a week before this meeting, I had come through the Makerspace for a quick version of the tour. Wolfe had been on his way to Tennessee to go to the wedding of one the Akron Makerspace’s members, and had agreed to show me around. The tour had only lasted half an hour but had impressed upon me the sheer scope and scale of the operation.
As Wolfe finished up his impromptu seminar on 3-D printing, some of the members began to filter in to begin work on their own projects. After some small talk, he and I were left to our tour. The informal version I received a week prior contained much of the same information, but this time there was a tighter focus on the subject of community interaction and inclusivity. “We’re here for everyone,” Wolfe said.
After the tour was over, Wolfe and a few of the members indulged my interest in the equipment and provided me with a few demonstrations. Watching them set up and run 3-D printers, laser cutters, lathes and welding for my benefit was a further demonstration of their interest and faith in an ongoing project that seems to speak to the best parts of their personalities.
They seemed to revel in having a stranger in their midst, doing what they could to make me feel welcome, and stoke my interest in a space that comprises a large part of their lives.
Rarely have I encountered a space occupied and staffed by people who seem so honestly modest in their desire to be a positive force in the community they occupy. They are a diverse group, and their ranks are growing. Each of the members that I had a chance to talk to encouraged me to join, if only to learn something new every now and then.
Knowing that a place like this exists for people who might not have had any other way to complete their projects or begin to actualize their own ambitions makes the future of the creative community in Akron seem a little brighter.