Open Works

Open Works

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8310-3.ch010

Abstract

Open Works is a newly established community-based makerspace in the Greenmount West Neighborhood District of Baltimore, Maryland. The space, located in a completely renovated building especially designed as a makerspace, encompasses 34,000 square feet and has an impressive array of new equipment, specialty shops, public spaces, and 140 micro-studios for creatives and entrepreneurs in the community. Open Works offers a variety of face-to-face courses to certify makers in five out of the seven studio spaces and relies heavily on the six full-time staff and fellows to run the space. Open Works is grappling with the need to increase paid memberships as a mechanism for sustainability and at the same time trying to meet the needs of a disadvantaged community. This chapter explores Open Works.
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The walls are intentionally low so people actually get to know their neighbors. It's meant to be a shared open space, hence the name Open Works, it’s that we really want this to be a space of collaboration and working together. — Laura Cohen

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Organization Background

In September 2016, Open Works became a fresh face in the Baltimore Maker community. Founded in the Greenmount West Neighborhood of Baltimore, it is in the southeast corner of the Station North Arts and Entertainment District (Greenmount West, n.d.). These state-designated arts and entertainment districts are designed to foster economic development by offering property and sales tax incentives to arts-related businesses (Maryland State Arts Council, n.d.). The community-based makerspace, which contains approximately 34,000 square feet (3158 m2) spanning two floors, is located in a building that was initially built in 1930 as a distribution warehouse. In recent times, and before the $11.5 million renovation of the building, it had been used as a food bank, a thrift store, and then as a makeshift nonprofit space for storage and workshops. The building renovations and the current operating costs are funded by the Baltimore Arts Realty Corporation (BARCO), which is a nonprofit organization started in 2012 to create working spaces for artists, performers, makers and artisans in Baltimore. BARCO acts as the parent company for Open Works and handles the marketing, finance, and human resources for the space. The author was granted access and spoke mainly with Laura Cohen, Educational Manager for Open Works, who has a Master of Arts in Art Education and has a background in community organizing and teaching, as well as pottery and community arts.

In terms of space, Open Works is gigantic, with two floors of machines and tools, three classrooms, 140 micro studios, which can be found on both floors, and a sweeping front lobby area combined with a coffee shop. The front areas of the space are open to the public, and people with paid memberships can receive training and access to the many studios in the space. The front lobby area also acts as a venue for public programming, with a large drop-down screen and the ability to host workshops and lectures. Open Works has used the space to present a series called Workshop Wednesdays, where professionals offer talks about several different aspects of the maker world including copyright, social media, ownership, and issues relating to patents. The space sees 250 to 1000 visitors on average per month. The space contains an impressive number of tools, specialty shops, and classrooms. Table 1 provides an overview of tools and equipment found in the space.

Key Terms in this Chapter

AmeriCorps Vista: The domestic counterpart to the Peace Corps (Volunteers in Service to America).

Jimmi Printer: A large format 3D printer.

Historically Underutilized Business Zone: Special economic areas established by the US Small Business Administration (SBA), which offers tax incentives to businesses starting up.

Baltimore Arts Realty Corporation: BARCO is a nonprofit organization started in 2012 to create working spaces for artists, performers, makers, and artisans in Baltimore.

Gentrification: The process of renewal and influx of affluent people that displaces poorer residents.

Micro-Studio: Seven-foot by seven-foot spaces for makers business incubator spaces.

Mobile Makerspace: A makerspace that does not have a permanent physical location.

Baltimore Arts and Entertainment Districts: State-designated arts and entertainment districts are designed to foster economic development by offering property and sales tax incentives to arts-related businesses.

Greenmount West Neighborhood: A neighborhood of Baltimore, it is in the southeast corner of the Station North Arts and Entertainment district.

Open Works: A makerspace in the Greenmount Neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland.

STEM: Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

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