Tucked neatly off Dogwood Drive just a few minutes from Old Town's Artisan Village is Berea's newest creative outlet for artists and hobbyists of all ages and types: Berea Makerspace.
It's a little tricky to find off Spring Circle Drive with no signage just yet, but it's located around the corner from Sticks and Stones Landscape Supply and features small, metallic house numbers over the door.
Inside, though, it's like one has stepped into a cool secret shop filled with machines, supplies, and books to create just about anything one can dream up. Thanks to the donation of furniture from Berea College's old science building, the place looks a little mad-scientist-meets-artist, with lots of space to spread out, dive in and create, create, create.
The grand opening won't be for a bit, as they're still moving into their new space, but weekly open houses are Tuesdays at 7 p.m., which gives prospective members an opportunity to check out the space and meet members.
Members pay $35 a month (individual) and $55 a month (family of four adults, not including kids, who are always guests) for access to the multi-disciplinary shop. It's open 24/7 using a key, which will eventually be replaced with a swipe pad and key fob, so early birds, night owls and everyone in-between can create whatever, whenever inspiration strikes them.
A Playground for Creatives
The garage has two massive bay doors that open to let in extra light and fresh air, offering prime ventilation for those projects that need it.
For those who've dreamt of their own woodshop but can't afford the equipment, or hobbyists who want to see if they can create enough to make their passion a full-time job, this is the place to be.
"One of the benefits is being able to experiment with new equipment without having to buy it firsthand," said Brian Ramsey, a founding board member. "There'll be tons of learning going on," Joe Sheehan, also a founder and board member, added.
The space is split into stations for each discipline, and is currently large and open, offering opportunity to learn from and collaborate with other members.
Members can pursue their passions in woodwork with machines like the bandsaw, drill press, planer and router. Those interested in printing have access to a 3D printer, four-color screen printing rig, laser engraver and a Cricut.
There's even a metalworking station if one like to learn or continue working in blacksmithing or welding. "We're not a trade school, but members can try out being a welder without enrolling in a school, or post-trade school, they can come here and work," Sheehan said.
"Berea College grads with no access now, to the many things they had at school, can have this space to use to continue their education," said Ramsey.
Members can learn more about and practice technology at the electronics/programming station, too.
If one is into papercraft or jewelry making, the huge lab tables sprinkled throughout offer a great spot to spread out one's work and craft to their heart's content.
There are plans to add a sewing machine station and a ceramics shop, with an electric kiln, too.
Building the Community
But what if one doesn't know what half this stuff is, let alone how to use it? No worries, as all members receive complimentary safety training on equipment, and there are plans to add Makerspace-sponsored and member-led classes and workshops.
The Makerspace is for adults, but since all the board members have children, they wanted to create a space for kids too, where families could come together and create.
The kids' section is for supervised kiddos (no drop-and-go, parents) featuring bristle bots, circuit scribes and activities like the STEAMshop pop-ups led by the group this past year.
The seven-member board is comprised of volunteers with full-time jobs outside of the Makerspace, but who wanted to build community in Berea through it.
They opened for membership on August 9, and have no membership cap. They have a private donation to cover shortfalls for a couple of months. "Our goal as a board is to keep the lights on and run the financial aspects of the 501(c)3," Ramsey said. Donations are tax-deductible, but memberships are not.
"We're looking for members with excitement and passion to help us grow," said Meg Wilson, also a founding board member.
Berea Makerspace is focused on inclusivity, where all members feel welcome, regardless of their background.
Member meetings are every Tuesday right before the open house, where members share updates, pitch projects, have a show and tell, and hear feedback about space operations.
MACED is their current sponsor and helped with their organization and non-profit filing. The board is working with past STEAMshop sponsors to renew sponsorships as they grow their membership, which is currently at two-thirds of their goal.
Kre8Now, Lexington's makerspace, has been very supportive, offering advice, sending equipment and signs for the start-up. The board is also working on grant applications, hoping for local business, city and individual support.
A Maker Fair might be in the future if members want it, as well as an option for sectioning off and subletting individual artist space.
For now, the board is focused on opening the doors, keeping the lights on, and growing and empowering its membership. "Growing that community is our success, those who are interested in being part of this space and community," Ramsey said.
Berea Makerspace is located at 116 Spring Circle Drive #3, off I-75 at exit 76. To learn more or donate money or equipment in good shape, visit www.bereamakerspace.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org, #bereamakerspace on Facebook and Instagram, or call 954-675-0468.