Arts / Makerspaces

One teacher on why this forthcoming makerspace is wrong for South Philly

Instead of a massive live/work makerspace, wrote one teacher, the “underserved neighborhood needs affordable healthcare and childcare, ESL classes, business and finance classes in multiple languages, better jobs, living wages, technology classes, immigration services, and the such.”

Developers plan to turn South Philly’s shuttered Bok Technical School into the city’s biggest makerspace, complete with a rooftop restaurant, residential apartments and a nearby dog park.
But is that what the neighborhood — home to many Latino and Asian immigrants, as well as African-Americans — needs? Kayla Conklin, a teacher at Esperanza Academy Charter High School, wrote a blog post about her concerns about the forthcoming space, raising questions about the impact of the makerspaces around our city.
From the post:

“Artisan industrial” space, retail, housing–how much of this will be geared toward the actual community? Possibly a token amount, but more likely none at all. And so [developer] Scannapieco clearly hopes to usher in gentrification with her “makerspace.” It’s a pretty easy conclusion when other Philly makerspaces are in Graduate Hospital and Kensington, both battlefronts in the gentrification war Philadelphia is currently waging again long-term residents.
Further, who are the “makers?” They’re young, white people–the sort who build start-ups and attend expensive, pointless pop-ups and don’t worry about the community that was already there. Will they invite in kids for free workshops (with meals provided)? Will they hire the community and train them for meaningful jobs, not just as janitors? Will they pay a living wage if they do? What will they do for parents and adults who are too busy to be “makers”? Is this a space for everyone, or a space for those privileged few who can afford myriad luxuries–the first of which might be the ability to be a “maker” in the first place?

Read the full post

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