2011-10-12 / Excursions

Meet your (inner) Maker

Across the country, big noisy groups are making a difference. No, not those Occupy Wall Street slackers. The Maker movement blends fine arts, performing arts and industrial arts to teach, create with and share skills in danger of being lost. In the age of disposable everything and arts education cuts, Maker movements combine the can-do spirit of Grandpa's workshop with the no-limits a bandon of Burning Man. The Maker aesthetic doesn't just repair what's broken, it invents, improves and beautifies to craft a better part. Maybe the best thing the Makers do is empower people like me and you. Forget the hidebound hierarchy of academia and the implied barriers of modern industrial design. Lines between art, craft and performance blur in Makerspaces to inspire folks to produce work such as Steampunk legend Neverwas Haul. (neverwashaul.com )

Urban areas are sprouting Makerspaces like custom clockwork, mingling the scents of baking bread and plasma-cut metal over a soundtrack of instruction and construction. These creative coops are supported by membership dues, class fees and sales of creative outp u t . You can check one out in

Boston, Portland or San

Francisco.

Or maybe you’d like to help start one here.

Remember

Reilly’s House of

House Parts?

The former

Sea- board freight rail depot on the east end of Fort Myers’ River District was a haunt for those of us who loved remodeling with recycled materials. Ahead of its time, Reilly's closed before the current wave of "rebuilding centers" swelled nationwide. Jim Reilly is still recycling, though. His generous support has given a collaboration of artists, craftspeople, performers, business people and uncategorizable Makers a crack at turning the 30,000-square-foot campus of buildings and their surrounding grounds into a Makerspace on steroids. Farm-to-Table? They have the land and planned culinary space. Metal Mangling? James DiGiorgio (daddy of those cool sculptures in front of Alliance for the Arts on McGregor) is heading the charge. Glass, wood, stone, clay, paint? The artisans are ready to roll. Dance, theatre, music, film, writing? There's a whole building that will be anchored by the Laboratory Theater Company. A core group is already contributing blisters and brains to give you a place to make your vision concrete. Or any other material.

Christened Seaboard Junction, the organizers envision an umbrella space for fine, industrial and performing arts with curiosity of the participants as the only common denominator.A place where we, as a community, can teach and learn. An incubator for creative ambitions. There will be space for everything from private studios to public performance, but I'm running out of it here. the developing saga. Just enter Seaboard Junction at facebook.com.

If you hunger to turn theory into practice, Seaboard Junction could use your hands to make it so. At 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, the arts group will welcome all comers to help clean up and organize the leftovers of Reilly's building materials in preparation for a sale to support the build effort. Work, sweat, meet a likeminded soulmate. Hey, it could happen.

If you've ever complained about the lack of culture in Southwest Florida, ever longed for something cool to do, ever wished you didn't have to travel to be in on breaking trends, this is your chance to make history in your own backyard.

Seaboard Junction's address is 3026 East Riverside Drive. If you take Second Street east from downtown Fort Myers, it pretty much ends up in the building’s parking lot after crossing Palm Beach Boulevard, right next to the giant Oasis condo towers. I'm hoping for a bike maintenance class, or eventually some unconventional frame building. Ain't gonna happen without you, me and everybody we can wrangle putting our hands where our hearts are.

Burnt out on the political season's talk and posturing? Vote for action in an area that crosses every barrier of age and background. Besides being a sorely needed shot in the arm for Southwest Florida creative access, we've got some hardcore Maker street cred’ to protect. Thomas Edison is watching. ¦

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