“I think maker spaces are outlets for creativity. They empower people to explore new ways of making ideas come to life and express their inner selves through craft,” says Brian Weiner, cofounder of Makers Square Makerspace
— which will shut its doors after Saturday's closing party due to a conflict regarding Fort Lauderdale city codes.
“We have in our society lost a little bit of the tangible," Weiner laments. "We create things, but often it's only 1s and 0s, not physical, tangible things you can point at and say, ‘I made that.’”
Maker spaces have rapidly become part of the creative conversation in South Florida, and with good reason. These community-oriented spaces, where people can learn crafts like woodworking and costume-making and use tools like welding torches and 3D printers, have filled a vacuum. People are tired of assembly-line products and overcommercialization.
Maker spaces, which usually offer cheap membership fees, cost much less than purchasing equipment and renting or buying space. The inner community of artists and craftsmen and -women are the spaces' greatest asset, as these places play dual roles as workspaces and classrooms for continuing education. And the versatility of such settings usually offers an air of neutrality that is as attractive to seasoned craft masters as it is to amateurs. They're great centers for hands-on learning.
When it first opened its doors three years ago, Makers Square was a novelty in the area with its seemingly bric-a-brac ad hoc placement of containers and incidentals. Now, after thousands of individuals have created a community of makers, it is time to say goodbye, at least for the foreseeable future, to this funky, 14,000-square-foot corner of creativity.
According to a Facebook post from Makers Square, “for reasons including code compliance, need for more space, and the economic model, we will be closing the current location and possibly moving to a new one in the near future, depending on circumstances/space/expenses.”
As Weiner explains it, “we, being creatives, used [shipping] containers for purposes other than the city had the ability to deal with. We used them for workspace structures, and we were told there are no permits we can get to allow that. They also said that even having containers sitting on the ground, peeking over the wall was too much. These are nonpermanent structures, yet secure enough and heavy enough that an average hurricane isn't going to move them one inch.”
With the City of Fort Lauderdale seemingly supportive the past few years of its burgeoning arts scene, you’d think it would help the maker space or at least be willing to work on some sort agreement that is mutually beneficial. “Other major metropolitan areas give grants for people like us to come into their cities,” points out Weiner. “We have been self-financed for three years.”
While the future of Makers Square is uncertain, it will be going out with a bang, celebrating with the rolling boogie of the Screaming J’s and the company of the many who have activated the space through work, classes, or social events. In the meantime, Weiner is appreciative of the situation and realizes that a future space will require an agreement of their needs with the city’s traditional ideology or, worst-case scenario for our community, “find another city who wants something like this and can support us a bit.”
The hope remains for past makers that another space will be found and that a truce on compliance can be met between the parties involved, although it might involve a revamping of city coding if the containers are to be kept — which would be the cheapest scenario for Weiner and company.
“Fort Lauderdale becomes a little more vanilla and loses some personality,” laments Weiner. “I think the city can't think outside the box — pun intended.”
Closing party with the Screaming J’s. The fun starts at 6 p.m. Saturday, February 13, and runs until 3 a.m. at the Makers Square Social Club, 1142 NE Sixth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted and encouraged to assist the space during this interim period. Call 954-361-4114, or visit makerssquare.com.