IAE is working in an emerging market. Our focus on developing one’s motivation, curiosity, optimism and the thinking skills needed to (for ever more) live life as a self-sustaining creative, as well as be able to teach others how to use our skills to fuel economic growth and innovation across sectors, is still a pretty novel idea.
While nationally there are 904,581 businesses in the U.S. involved in the creation or distribution of the arts that employ 3.34 million people, we need more of them who can help others (re)fuel our economy. As a result of our own fragmentation and inability to sustain ourselves, as a collective group, the creative sector has had trouble articulating our value proposition to others. While nationally the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $166.2 billion in economic activity annually—a 24 percent increase in just the past five year, ( Americans for the Arts: Arts and Economic Prosperity Study III) artists continue to struggle to find the space, grants and income they need to become more visible in other sectors and valued. (LINC:Artists and the Economic Recession)
So how do we bridge this gap?
A friend of mine, Benjamin Sugar, helped me realize that a bridge to fill this gap exists in Maker Spaces- or what some refer to as hackerspaces. Both hackerspaces and Maker Spaces are community-operated physical places where people can meet and work on their projects. The run often like clubs or gyms with memberships from $70 to 125 dollars per month. “Each has a unique flavor of their neighborhood and reflect members needs and interests” Benjamin told me. Profits are reinvested into the maker space through the purchase of new tools, supplies, machinery or equipment for each area of member interest.
Interestingly, IAE students decided last weekend in class that they want to build one that exists at the crossroads of art, science, entrepreneurship, and social good for our growing community. This past weekend, class morphed organically from a case study on trust and ethics into what became the rest of the weekend building a business plan for our new maker space we birthed on Sunday April 22nd. We are calling it IAEOU. It’s url is www.IAEOU.me- because its all about your creativity and sharing it. ( And if your wondering what IAEOU stands for? Vowels are to words what creativity is to the world-pretty basic and necessary.)
Besides the thrill of witnessing our students taking ownership of such a great project, I believe that maker spaces are a key to unlock building shared language across sectors which will, in turn, provide the playground needed to increase the value creatives can offer others across sectors to (re)fuel our economy. I agree with Benjamin0 they truly are S.T.E.A.M. engines. Currently there are over 140 in the United States and over 1000 around the world. They seem to be growing in popularity and membership quickly.
According to Benjamin, Artisan’s Asylum, as an example, moved three times in less than two years, growing from 3000 sq feet, to 10,000, and now 25,000. Pumping Station One, in Chicago, seems to be on a similar trajectory. Benjamin Sugar is also in the process of building a maker space in the Evanston/Rogers Park area of Chicago of his own. If you would like to know more about his space you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
As for our space, I am not sure where this journey is going to take us but the creativity and motivation that is spilling out of IAE students right at the moment is contagious.
P.S. Arts & Economic Prosperity IV: The Economic Impact of Nonprofit Arts and Culture Organizations and Their Audiences, a research project of Americans for the Arts, is due out June 8th, 2012. I don’t know about you, but I personally can’t wait.