Scene in South Bend: Make South Bend
Nora McGreevy | Friday, February 3, 2017
To spend more than five minutes inside the walls of Make South Bend is to be dazzled by all of the possibilities for creativity. The “makerspace,” located in the River Park neighborhood of South Bend, is filled to the brim with beautiful and interesting things to look at: intricately crafted jewelry fill the shelves and paintings of all styles and sizes line the walls. The space itself feels like a work of art, with black and white checkers running along the floor and a burst of blue in the center of the room.
Founded in 2015, Make South Bend is South Bend’s first full makerspace. And what is a makerspace, exactly? “A makerspace lets there be one central location for a lot of tools and then people can come, rent a space, or just pay for use of the tools without owning them themselves … it removes the barriers of cost and allows people to dabble,” Michelle FitzGerald said.
FitzGerald, the founder of Make South Bend, describes how she was inspired to create Make South Bend after her own collection of artistic tools got too unruly for her own home — “It was ridiculous!” As she researched a solution to her problem, she came across the concept of makerspaces. Makerspaces are a global phenomenon — FitzGerald’s interest was initially piqued by a makerspace in Jakarta, Indonesia.
“A lot of other cities have [makerspaces] — Seattle, Austin and other big cities where people don’t have a lot of space in their own house,” she said.
Currently, Make South Bend boasts a 2,400-square-foot space with a large open space, four private studios available for rent, and a gallery in the front window with a local artist always on display. The gift shop, located in the front of the space, represents the work of more than 30 local artists.
The options for creativity are boundless. Make South Bend offers a staggering list of tools available, including the requisites for 3D printing, silk-screening, metal work, digital design, calligraphy, glass making and cutting, leather work, and more. The basement hosts a fully functioning woodshop, complete with drills, saws and a wood burning iron. Virtually every hobby is represented.
I’ve always felt that my siblings were more tactile or artistic than I was — my sister baked and sewed dresses, my little brothers drew comics and painted fantastical landscapes. That being said, wandering through the maze of paints, woodblocks, fabrics and tools in the makerspace captivated me. All of a sudden, I was overtaken by flashbacks to the art classes and summer camps of my youth. FitzGerald notes that it’s common for customers to come to Make South Bend and reconnect with their creative selves for the first time in a long while.
“We might get a drop-in who just comes to do pottery for a few hours, and they’ll say things like, ‘I haven’t done pottery since high school!’ We want to be a space where people can explore like that.”
The space will have its third birthday this year Feb. 17. Turning three brings exciting changes: Make South Bend will expand into the neighboring lot and go from 2,400 to 3,000 square feet. In the newly expanded building, Make South Bend will have 12 new private studios available, a larger class area and an expanded tech lab. The makerspace will also begin to offer a 24-hour access option to members.
Perhaps nobody embodies the spirit of Make South Bend better than its founder herself, Michelle FitzGerald. When I asked FitzGerald what she’s been working on recently, she rattled off a list of projects including learning how to make stained glass and crafting glass beads. Currently, she’s working on an ambitious metal-stamping project for her entire church. Asked to pick a favorite medium, she smiled.
“I don’t have one thing. I always say — my favorite thing to do is something new.”
Make South Bend is South Bend’s first full makerspace located in the old River Park Library building at 2228 Mishawaka Ave., South Bend, IN 46615. Hours are 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Find information on signing up for classes, renting space, job opportunities, party planning, membership packages, student discounts and everything in-between at http://www.makesouthbend.com/ or call 574-855-2271.