Wonderland of Innovation: A space for makers gets some takers

Generator invites users into a fun space for art, science, and technology.

Generator invites users into a fun space for art, science, and technology.

Ever imagine what it would be like to have access to a large space just for tinkering and making things with all of the hi-end equipment you might need like Laser Cutting and 3D printing? Burlington has developed just such a maker space for artists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and artisans. It’s called Generator and is 5,000 square feet of studios, tools, classroom and lounge located in the Annex of Memorial Auditorium. It also connects computer application developers to the city’s high-speed gigabit Internet network.

Makers of all kinds, novice or professional, can sign-up for membership, rent a studio space, or take a class. Generator’s objective is to foster a hybrid hive of activity that creates a fertile environment for innovation, creativity and idea fulfillment. Monthly membership starts at $50, giving access to tools and workspace. Studio membership starts at $100 a month and includes a private workspace. Classes for adult and teens programmed and managed by Burlington City Arts, will begin this month (April). Burlington City Arts Executive Director Doreen Kraft called Generator a “wonderland of innovation.”

Generator’s long list of partners includes Burlington City Arts, Champlain College, the University of Vermont, Burlington College, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and Community and Economic Development Office, and Burlington Telecom. Champlain College is also planning to open its own maker space in the city’s South End next month. “I’ve been engaged in community activism in Burlington for almost 25 years now,” said Michael Metz, president of the Generator board of directors as well as a Burlington City Arts board member. “I have never been involved with a project, with an activity, with an event, involving so many different aspects of our community.”

People of all ages and skill levels enjoy Generator.

People of all ages and skill levels enjoy Generator.

The Memorial Auditorium Annex is a temporary location for Generator; ultimately Generator and Burlington City Arts would like to form a “community creative center” on Pine Street. Before that happens, Generator has to arrive at a sustainable business model — the organization’s goal is to require fundraising only to fund community outreach and education. “We really do see this is a beta test site,” Metz, president said during a news conference. “Burlington’s a pretty small community to have a maker space along the lines of … the other 30 or 40 in larger cities that are successful. Some are not. So it’s an issue of scale. We’re feeling our way.” Lawrence Miller, secretary of the state Agency of Commerce and Community Development, said Generator could “create massive new opportunities” for Vermont.

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