Rock and a Hard Place: The Claremont MakerSpace

This is the fourth article in a series dealing with expanding arts and cultural offerings in Claremont, New Hampshire. We’re trying to unpack how a community can approach expanding these amenities to attract young people without putting pressure on existing residents. For more, please see part 1part 2, and part 3.

In my last article, I spoke with Melissa Richmond about the work she’s done to enhance the arts and music scene in Claremont through the WCCMA. We focused on the grassroots nature of her work over the last 8 years. It’s very apparently that Melissa’s connection with the City has enabled her to reach the vast audience she has, even with limited programming funds.CMS-Logo-b-y-g

For this article, I’m speaking with Josh Bushueff, the Assistant Director of the Claremont MakerSpace. The Claremont MakerSpace is a different model than the WCCMA. The Makers are largely coming in from towns in the broader region (Lebanon, Sunapee), and will likely have more funding off the bat. Our questions for Josh will circle on what they plan to do to gain traction here in the City and to keep their community open to as many people as possible.

So – we know each other pretty well. But for those who don’t… you recently left Los Angeles to come back to New Hampshire, where you grew up. What gives?

First of all, I love New Hampshire, the communities here, and the life-style. I’m a lifelong maker – I gained all of my makers skills in the garages and shops around my hometown. I’m also a big proponent of all hands-on education that encourages creativity. I became familiar with the Maker Movement while living in Los Angeles, and immediately considered the model to be a great resource for the type of industrious and ingenious people that I grew up with in New England. Joining the founding TwinState MakerSpace team was a great opportunity to work on making this happen.

CMS Assistant Director Josh Bushueff.

CMS Assistant Director Josh Bushueff.

Okay, you may need to give us the elevator pitch for what a makerspace actually is…

A MakerSpace is a community workspace that offers members access to specialty tools, dedicated space, and classes for all types of making – artistic, industrial, technical, and otherwise. It’s designed to help people turn their creative ideas into realities, by making resources to do so more available and affordable. Makerspaces combine a workshop/laboratory environment with a business incubator environment, and encourage the innovative and entrepreneurial efforts of their members.

A question that I’m sure you’ve gotten a few times over the last few months – why Claremont?

The Sawtooth Mill, CMS' future home in Claremont.

The Sawtooth Mill, CMS’ future home in Claremont.

Claremont and the surrounding towns and cities are home to a ton of makers. New Englanders are pretty industrious and definitely ingenious in the ways they work. You have to figure that our history of farming, manufacturing, and the need to make it through long winters all plays a role there. However, for rural communities like Claremont, access to high-tech tools, incubator-type services, and creative hubs for socializing are limited – often too far away to be truly useful, too expensive for regular use, or non-existent. Claremont has the need to grow and the infrastructure to support it. A makerspace provides resources for the existing community, and creates a distinguishing institution that attracts new people – creative people, young people, entrepreneurs, innovators, makers who enjoy the beauty of a classic New England city.

The MakerSpace team is, right now, largely made up of people from outside the City. Now, I don’t want to overblow this – you’re from Sunapee originally, which is two towns away. Many of the founders are from Lebanon, Grantham, and other close-by towns. But, it still begs the question… how do you feel you’re going to gain traction here in the City? How do you make sure that yours is a project people want, that people want to participate in?

We gain traction by getting people from Claremont involved. Even at this early stage, I’ve been working with many members of the Claremont community to design the facility and the programming. We’ve been meeting with locals, individuals, businesses, and educators to hear what they think, what they want, and how they see this innovative project integrating into the fabric of the City. Furthermore, half of our steering committee is comprised of people who live in Claremont. Early on, we conducted surveying in the community to gauge interest and help determine feasibility, and we continue to do so. To date, the responses have been resoundingly positive, supportive, and excited about the the project.

So, this series has been about the ups and downs of redevelopment and revitalization. What do you think the City gains by having the MakerSpace? Do you see any potential pitfalls?

I think the City gains a distinguishing anchor institution. One that brings a variety of resources to a population that can truly benefit from them, while attracting new people who want to make stuff, develop professional skill-sets, start businesses, and be close to both creative support and grade A nature.

Pitfalls. Not really, in regards to redevelopment and revitalization. This city has some room to grow.

I know that there will be plenty of challenges, especially in developing programming that works for everyone’s different financial situations and needs, but we’re seeing the makerspace model work in diverse communities across the country and we’re developing critical partners who resonate with our mission and see the makerspace aligning with their initiatives to support Claremont’s positive growth into the future.

A beautiful canvas for the Claremont MakerSpace.

A beautiful canvas for the Claremont MakerSpace.

And finally, can you give us a sense of what’s on the horizon for you all? Where you are in the process, what things can readers can get involved in right now?

The horizon is a glorious sunrise. But seriously, we’re fundraising for the renovations at the facility and all the great tools and resources that will live inside. We are a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization and all contributions to the Claremont MakerSpace are tax-deductible. For these, we, and all who will benefit from a myriad of services that a well equipped MakerSpace offers, are incredibly grateful. Pending some big grant opportunities, we’re hoping to get shovels in the ground in the mid-summer, and plan to be going full-throttle once that happens.

In the meantime, we’re putting together events and workshops for the summer which readers can learn about on our website: News and updates will also be posted online. And, readers, please contact us with any questions about the project, or how you can get involved and share your maker skills with the greater community.

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