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Exciting times ahead for arts learning and the MakerSpace Art School

On a side street in Hoxton, London there’s a small defunct pub once home to a community of drinkers and now home to a community of makers. The defunct pub is now a ‘digital fabrication laboratory called the FabPub which allows people to experiment with large 3D Printers and Laser Cutters.

FabPub Founder Arthur Mamou-Mani is a lecturer at the University of Westminster in London runs his architect business from FabPub. The space is also open to the public as an open workshop/ MakerSpace for students and creative practitioners who would like to use high-end fabrication equipment but equally valuable need access to a unique community of specialist expertise. I was invited along to FabPub by Liz Corbin who is a researcher of making at UCL Institute of making and initiator of the the Open Workshop Network (OWN) Group, a platform for any and every London-based open access workshop. OWN hold regular meetings across the London to share practice and exchange experiences of their maker communities, MakerSpaces, FabLabs and workshops.

MakerSpaces mostly operate at a grassroots level with some contributions from various funding bodies but the driver for most is to provide affordable, accessible and sustainable making workshops and communities. The grassroots approach is an important aspect of the MakerSpace ecosystem. It’s reminiscent of the voluntary run community arts studios created in warehouses and derelict buildings of the past. As we witnessed the demise of the independently run arts studio communities (turned into fancy apartments of which Stockwell Studios was one) we have also seen resurgence in alternative arts studio communities, MakerSpaces.

The distributed, diverse and accessible nature of MakerSpaces across London provides a rich and exciting art making and learning eco system for all. Those who stand to benefit the most are learners from non-privileged backgrounds and young people and adults who have no formal FE/HE education. Equally the maker movement brings huge benefits to students, graduates and early career artists and designers. The growing digital maker movement highlights a widening gap between formal pedagogic practices (institutional) and the informal emergent practices (Grassroots) within arts learning & teaching. An area being explored at University of the arts London:

 CCW Digital MakerSpace (Camberwell, Chelsea & Wimbledon colleges of Arts) is a growing informal, cross-disciplinary community exploring and supporting emergent digital making practice. The CCW MakerSpace community aims to foster a collaborative approach across disciplines, HEIs, industry, projects, enterprise and is open to explore all collaboration possibilities. The community at present includes staff, students & external collaborators who aim to openly share experience, knowledge and interest in experimentation with physical/interactive tech and traditional making practice. Also see more our Chelsea Jam event.

Collaboration and sustainable practice are fundamental to arts education and MakerSpaces and maker communities clearly provide a useful eco system for both. Although we should consider the sustainable demands of supporting learning and pressures on maker communities to provide learning and support initiatives and structures beyond their capacity.

MakerSpaces provide fantastic new possibilities for arts education, sector and practice. These spaces and communities could enable new approaches to arts learning where cross-disciplinary collaboration and open online learning, physical and virtual are brought together with new expanded networks. Exciting times ahead for arts learning, the creative industries and the maker community. You can read more about research and work in arts online collaboration here The MakerSpace MOOC the perfect storm and MakerSpace for Open Practice.

Chris Follows | artsmooc