Chicago has seen a ton of makerspaces open in the last ten years - from the more traditional spaces like Pumping Station: One to the new shiny options like mHub, we’ve got a different flavor of space for whatever you’re looking for.
I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that I’m partial to a particular space, though. I’ve been involved in an experiment called Lost Arts since it started, and I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better group of people creating such a wide span of work anywhere else. Lost Arts was opened by Charles Adler, the co-founder of Kickstarter, back in 2015. The first iteration of the space was a month-long experiment housed in a recently-sold meat processing warehouse in Chicago’s West Loop. I say experiment because that’s exactly what it was. Charles loves building communities and enabling folks to create, and that first iteration was him dipping his toe in the water to see if he could actually pull it off. The first iteration ran in July of 2015, and brought together a who’s-who of the creative community in Chicago to make things together. There was no charge for participation or use of the tools - the only constraint was that the building would be torn down at the end of the month to make way for condos.
The first version of the space was invite-only. Charles seems to know everyone, and he curated a list of people that he knew would be good for the space. I participated in the space purely by luck and happenstance. In June of 2015, I left my agency position to go on a mini-sabbatical and make more of the physical work that I was yearning to make. I put in my two weeks without having too much of a plan for a next step, and Gavin Morrissey, a good friend and brilliant motion graphics artist, recommended that I go check out Lost Arts. I showed up at the front door of the warehouse and explained my situation to Charles - “Hey, I don’t have a place to work for the next few months, and I’d love to work here.” After a quick conversation, we realized that I could help out by setting up and maintaining the fleet of 3D printers at the space, and I was subsequently given access to Lost Arts for the month.
Charles and I clicked, and I started seeking out other ways that I could help make sure that the experiment succeeded. One of the obvious ways that I could help was by creating a website for the space. I’m happy to say that the second iteration of Lost Arts opened in the summer of 2016, and we’re moving on to open another (hopefully permanent) version sometime in the near future.
The website for Lost Arts needed to reflect the vibrant and diverse community that gathers at the space, but it also needed to be easily maintained by folks who never wanted to touch code. As with many of my other projects, we decided that Wordpress was the right tool for this job.
Out of all of my projects, this site has probably seen the most drastic changes over its lifetime. Charles has a drive to always make things better, and the website doesn’t escape that reach. We’re currently on version three of major redesigns for the site, and I’m really proud of what we have now. Along with a design that accurately reflects the values of Lost Arts, I also implemented a water-tight custom fields and post types system that lets our content editors easily update the site with very little fuss.
Check out the website to get the full view of what’s going on at Lost Arts. If you’re interested in creating in Chicago, it’s a great place to do so, and we’d love for you to stop by for a tour. Also make sure to check out the events section - there’s always something happening at the space, and you’ll probably be able to find something that you’d like to be involved in.