Fort Smith, NWT, looks at opening a Makerspace

Staff at the Aurora College South Slave Research Center are putting out feelers in the community of Fort Smith, NWT, asking if local artists and creators would like a Makerspace.

Whitney Locken, Makerspace and TAP coordinator with the South Slave Research Center posted on the Facebook community board Tuesday asking residents to fill out a survey that will give the team an idea of ​​the interest among local makers.

“Are you a Maker or Builder? Do you want to be? Whether for hobby or business, we want to hear from you!” wrote Locken.

Makerspace facilities have grown in popularity over the years. Makerspace YK opened in June 2022 in Yellowknife NWT at the former After 8 Pub. And in Inuvik, the The Innovate Center for Arts, Crafts and Technology opened in January 2019.

The idea is to offer the community a place where they can access equipment they may not otherwise be able to afford or have space for, as well as a space to create or hold workshops.

The space could make room for anything from pottery, woodworking, metal working, graphic design and video, stained glass, laser cutting or vinyl cutting to traditional and innovative Indigenous activities, such as hide scraping or carving.

Aurora College is partnered with the Town of Fort Smith, Thebacha Business Development Services, Northern Life Museum and Cultural Centre, and the Thebacha and Wood Buffalo Astronomical Society to develop interest. They are also open to other potential partnerships within the community.

‘A great opportunity’

Shandi Hunter is the manager at the Northern Life Museum and Cultural Centre. She said it’s a great opportunity for local artists to access equipment and develop their crafts.

“It would be really great, it would help everybody get out there,” she said. “There’s different opportunities to learn new things.”

A Makerspace in Newfoundland helps local businesses create promotional products. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

Hunter said they don’t have a dedicated building in mind yet but the college, the museum, and Mary Kaeser Library all have potential spaces to get started and set up stations.

“Maybe the museum would have the sewing machines and the college would have the laser printer,” said Hunter. “If we could find a location to keep everything long term, that would be ideal.”

Hunter said they’re really hoping to hear from the community on what type of equipment or space is needed so they can tailor it towards those needs.

Locken was also careful to point out that the idea is just in the beginning phase.

“Don’t get [too] excited — our first step will be to hold some Maker workshops,” she wrote. “As well as talking and visioning what a Makerspace in Fort Smith could look like.”

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