Staten Island MakerSpace was founded in 2013 by sculptors, DB Lampman and Scott Van Campen. DB works in mixed mediums, and has a background in dance, performance art, and arts administration. Scott is a metalworker and in addition to making sculpture, has operated his architectural metalworking business New York Custom Fabricators in the space at 450 Front Street for the last ten years.
In October of 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit Staten Island hard, and the shop was flooded with over three feet of water. Most of the valuable equipment was moved to higher ground, but the experience profoundly changed their perspective on how they wanted to live, work, and relate to the community. "People are always complaining that the neighborhood should be this, or that, but we decided to stop complaining and do something positive. The makerspace was an idea that we thought was feasible and needed in the community."
A year prior to the hurricane, in September of 2011, Scott exhibited a sculpture he made in collaboration with his friend, Mark Zappasodi, called Brewing As Art at the World Maker Faire in NYC. The sculpture was a ten-gallon mobile brewing station and it won the Make Magazine Editor's Choice award at the festival. Although Scott and DB have been makers for years, Scott's participation in the World Maker Faire opened him up to the maker community at large and the seeds of the idea of creating a makerspace for the Staten Island community came into being.
Shortly after Hurricane Sandy, they visited the Edison Lab in West Orange, NJ. "When we walked in, we looked at each other and said, this is what we want to do. We want to make a space for people to create, invent, collaborate, and make great things."
In early October of 2012, the New York City Economic Development Corporation issued an RFP for a small business incubator in Staten Island and Scott and DB wrote and submitted a proposal to transform the existing metalshop into a community workspace for artists, craftspeople, makers, hardware developers, and general hobbyists. After several rounds of interviews with the NYCEDC, and multiple rewrites to the original application, Staten Island MakerSpace was selected to be the first NYCEDC sponsored small business incubator on Staten Island.
During the months that the proposal was pending, Scott and DB reached out to makerspaces across the country and to other organizations for tips, strategies, and partnerships.
Some of the most significant help in developing the concept came from other makerspaces such as Artisan's Asylum in Somerville, MA. Artisan's Asylum hosted a "How to Make a Makerspace" conference that Scott went to and from there, he gained invaluable information about the technicalities of setting up workshops, insurance forms, waivers, membership agreements, etc. Rochester Makerspace also very generously shared their experience opening up their makerspace and offered advice and suggestions.
Other organizations that offered significant help developing the makerspace are Staten Island Arts, the College of Staten Island's Small Business Development Center, NYC Business Solutions, and the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce. All of these organizations will partner with the makerspace going forward to support small business and creative development by offering workshops, counseling, and other resources to our community of makers.
The people at Maker Media, founders of Make Magazine and the World Maker Faires, took time to speak with Scott at great length about the project and have been very supportive and helpful. The maker community in general very much believes in a philosophy of creating an entrepreneurial "ecosystem" of creativity and collaboration that we saw at the Edison Lab and that we hope to cultivate at our makerspace.
And last, but certainly the most important, are the fantastic people who live in and around Staten Island who filled out the surveys, attended the open house events, show up to volunteer, and inform the policies and programs as they are being developed to make Staten Island MakerSpace a space that works for the community of Staten Island. "There are a huge amount of talented people who live in the area and will teach workshops and share skills in a wide range of areas; from arts to engineering, to the computer sciences and industrial arts, and we look forward to the months ahead when we are making stuff and inventing things together. We welcome everyone's ideas, and hope you continue to let us know how we can make this space together."