(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
Station North’s new makerspace officially opened Tuesday, but the tools are already in use.
The dividers that separate Open Works’ 7-by-7-foot microstudios were made in-house. So were the scissors used to cut the ceremonial ribbon on the 34,000-square-foot space at 1400 Greenmount Ave.
As classes and memberships ramp up, the goal is to start producing goods — and companies — that leave the building and venture out into the market.
Many pieces are in place at the $11.5 million project, which is helmed by the Baltimore Arts Realty Corp. (BARCO). Tools like a laser cutter, plasma cutter, 3D printers, various CNC routers and eight 3D printers are available. Plus, there are rooms dedicated to woodworking, metalworking, electronics and textiles.
The details are also in place, like the fact that each microstudio has its own number to ease mail delivery.
But the construction and heavy-duty equipment reflects only a piece of the work that’s been taking place in this corner of the Station North Arts and Entertainment District over the last year.
They’ve been hiring. Open Works has seven employees, and another roughly 10 part-time workers, said General Manager Will Holman.
They’ve also been getting out into the community and partnering.
To teach the classes, the space has already assembled partners like SewLab, Station North Tool Library, Baltimore Jewelry Center and Baltimore Print Studios. The first startup to become a member, Jimmi, launched at MICA. Red Emma’s is also set to open the Greenmount Coffee Lab in the space in November, providing a cafe and a place for the worker-owned co-op to experiment.
Open Works itself also outfitted a van with gear to bring to schools.
Now that it’s open, they’re inviting the wider community in. A pair of events during Baltimore Innovation Week provides some opportunities to do so.
On Saturday, Sept. 24, the space is hosting a community fair with food trucks, music from acts like T.T. The Artist and electric kids’ cars.
The Museweb Foundation, which is looking to digitally document Baltimore cultural stories, is also holding a workshop and happy hour there on Sept. 27.
For those curious about membership, here’s how it works.
Open Works will have three tiers of membership, ranging from $70-$125 a month, as well as microstudio licenses that are $125 per month. Children and families can check it out every Saturday in October for tours and some hands-on activities. Day passes are also available for the tools or microstudios.
The space also received a $75,000 grant from PNC, Telesis Corporation and the T.Rowe Price Foundation to get its scholarship programming up and running. That’s not the biggest piece of funding they’ve received, but it’s indicative of its purpose.
Located adjacent to City Arts apartments and Green Mount Cemetery in a building that was mere bones a year ago, Holman and other leaders like BARCO Managing Director Mac Maclure have talked a lot about the importance of Open Works, which joins makerspaces like the member-run Baltimore Node and City Garage-based Foundery that also provide access to the tools that can help make physical goods.
But like the Digital Harbor Foundation, leaders connected to Open Works believe the maker movement and advanced manufacturing represent a way to provide access to skills that could lead to new jobs in a city that needs them, along with a chance to build cool stuff.
“Baltimore will do extremely well, but that’s not the question,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said at the ribbon-cutting. “The question is whether all of Baltimore will rise together, or will we leave some behind?”
Open Works officials are eager to see that question play out in real time.
Standing in the newly refinished building at the end of a three-year development effort, Holman was focused on the work ahead. Likewise, Cummings asked, “What’s the next step?”