Pulling into the old River City complex, I was reminded of my favorite Rom-Com, Hostel. Well used, past their prime, ominous buildings leered over my wee baby car; hiding a magical destination, one of mystery, intrigue and possibly murder. As soon as I walked into TekVenture, I was met with complete darkness and I was honestly waiting for a creepy curator to take my ticket and direct me to the horror show. Instead, I was met by Beth Collier, Art Facilitator.
As more people arrived, the building slowly lit up and came alive. Soon, happy faces from different areas moved about as this maker-space paradise unfolded in front of me.
Beth, a working artist under the name B. Wares, enthusiastically showed me the woodshop, machine/CNC shop, pottery and blacksmith areas, electrical engineering desks decorated with various sewing machines, ceramic wheels, and kiddie pools weaved throughout several hundred square feet of unlimited potential. She beams with unabashed imagination as she describes the future plans for this vast expanse.
She’s part of HeART of the City, a local artist collective, whose mission is to have art, creations and imaginative collaborations available to everyone in Fort Wayne. From what Beth is telling me about future plans in TekVenture’s timeline, these organizations go hand in hand. After walking around the TekVenture building, I could see why this was such an important addition to the community. Forming over 10 years ago, TekVenture seems to have finally found its wings and is ready to fly far, thanks to the new location’s energy and accessibility to the public.
In addition to working with a local ADA ally, the facility is not only accessible to makers with mobility issues, it allows for hands on learning, by longtime hobbyists and master crafters, which are not readily accessible in many communities. By joining as an individual ($35) or family ($50) you can have access to creating anything your imagination can think up. Beth sums it up, like she tells herself this every morning, “If you have a project you’ve always dreamed of doing, you’ll have the opportunity to see your vision come to life. Even if you don’t know how to do your project all the way, there are so many brilliant minds here to help you through it.”
The big launch is coming this summer and to kick it off, TekVenture is taking on a group project, headed up by Beth, herself. She has proposed and designed a 14’ tall phoenix, that will debut at the Three Rivers Festival Parade on July 8th. The plans include a wooden skeletal base, a stained glass domed chest, articulated wings that move, and durable feathers made from a flag-like material. All departments, including robotics, will be included. The final project will be pulled in the TRF parade and is designed to be 25’ long and 12’ wide. For anyone interested in joining, tours are available by contacting TekVenture on Facebook, or popping in during business hours. Another awesome thing the collective is doing for curious citizens is participating in National Week of Making, from June 16th through the 22nd. During this time, TekVenture is open to the public to come and work on the phoenix alongside the established makers. All skill levels are welcomed and Beth emphasizes that “even if you feel like you can’t do what we need, we’ll find a place for you.” It’s with that attitude and commitment to inclusion that makes this place stand out in a time where we need art to bring us togethe.
Written By: Chele Heck