What is a Makerspace?

A makerspace is a shared workspace that provides access to a social community, education, resources, and tools that enable people "to design, prototype, and create manufactured works that would otherwise be more challenging and cost-prohibitive to create with the resources available to individuals working alone." (Maker Media, 2016) Creative makerspaces function as learning and workspaces that allow individual artists and creative industries to share expertise, resources, and tools. Creative makerspaces are valuable assets to the creative economy because they enable emerging creative businesses and individuals to grow and evolve, provide a sense of creative community through the clustering of resources and like-minded people, and facilitate invention.

Makerspaces can be operated by non-profit or for-profit corporations and organizations or managed by informally organized groups of people who agree to share space, resources, and tools. Proponents of makerspaces include those that seek to nurture innovation that bridges the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM). The spaces may be in temporary or permanent spaces and in locations that are privately owned, donated, or leased. Established makerspaces are often affiliated with established institutions, such as libraries, schools, and museums. Makerspaces also emerge organically and/or to serve a temporary purpose, and make exist in leased or donated public and private spaces, including private homes.

Examples of spaces and activities that can be categorized as creative makerspaces:

  • non-profit arts center providing shared workspace and access to specific creative educational opportunities along with tools and materials, such as ceramic material or glassblowing material
  • membership-based for-profit fabrication space that provide access to specific creative media or a mix of creative tools and materials, such as laser cutters, 3D printers, saws, welders, grinders, and hand tools for electronics and robotics
  • A short-term, pop-up maker event focused providing access to materials that can be used for prototyping an art or design product or a community planning or design solution

Promoting the Development of Makerspaces

Planners can support the creation of temporary and permanent makerspaces in a couple of ways.

  • Temporary makerspaces can be a component of a creative placemaking or tactical urbanism initiative. Creation of a short-term makerspace complete with materials and a facilitator/educator can create an opportunity for people to envision and prototype community design ideas that may inform the delivery of a creative placemaking or tactical urbanism demonstration project. Temporary makerspaces can be used as an activity for assessing demand for collaborative workspaces, artist studios, art centers, and/or creative industry fabrication or manufacturing spaces. Market the pop-up makerspace and survey participants to track local and regional participation levels and needs. A temporary makerspace may occur over a weekend or as a series of maker workshops that take place over several months.
  • Permanent makerspaces can be encouraged through the designation of zoning districts permitting arts and culture uses, shared studio workspaces, and fabrication and/or manufacturing uses in commercial, light industrial, and mixed use zones. Public and private sector financing and development entities can market resources and technical assistance available for studying the feasibility and sustainable financing structure for makerspaces as one type of cultural facility.

Case studies of makerspaces are forthcoming.