Syracuse joins Ithaca, Binghamton in opening space for people to tinker

Ryan Delaney
August 22, 2014

In Syracuse, a new workshop is getting ready to open. It’ll be a place for anyone to come and sculpt, cut, weld or print. The Innovation Trail's Ryan Delaney recently visited the facility, called a ‘Makerspace," as it was coming together.

Michael Gianattasio is a sculptor and metal worker by trade. But he knows his way around a 3-D printer, too. Like, the one set up here in the clean space of an old Syracuse factory building.

Gianattasio’s getting ready to open Syracuse’s first ‘makerspace’ in the Delavan Art Building on the city’s Near Westside. It’ll be called the SALT Makerspace, short for Syracuse Arts, Learning and Technology.

Along with the clean space, there’s what Gianattasio calls the “dirty space” for welding, or cutting.

Makerspaces are community-accessible workshops for nearly any kind of art or project  that results in a physical product. They’re a growing trend in arts communities - and more are opening in upstate New York.

Gianatassio says he’s trying to design a workshop with its own unique feel compared to other makerspaces.

“A lot of the different communities have their own kind of style and flare to them. There’s everything from just a room in a building that is just computers, to a building that full of equipment and going to a place that just does robotics.”

Gianatassio has been searching classified ads, taking donations and raiding stockpiles of old industrial equipment to find tools and machines to fill the space.

He says makerspaces aren’t just for the artist or professional, but anyone with an interest in tinkering around.

“What this place has the potential to be is that resource for someone who has an idea, to develop it. Whether that’s a product or an art project, they would be able to come here, learn how to do it on their own, get instruction, or collaborate with someone to develop something."

That collaboration is a big part of the makerspace experience.

At a recent meetup at the space, a diverse group of people show up. Some were curious recent college grads. Others, engineers with decades of experience. They’ll likely end up being both instructors and students.

The makerspace will offer classes on various art techniques and skills. Or users can pay a fee and come in and use the equipment.

“So that whole community really is about opening it up and connecting with one another and giving access to knowledge as well as equipment.”

Makerspaces have been popping up in communities around the country for the past decade or so. There are ones in Rochester, Binghamton and Ithaca already.

Amanda Sharpsteen is a graphic designer. She’s working to get a makerspace open in Cortland, called the S.T.E.A.M. House.

She says creating something is one of the best feelings in the world.

“The feeling you get when you actually make something with your own hands, is just phenomenal. Especially with kids and teens or people just entering the workforce. Having a skill that can actually create something.”

Sharpsteen encourages younger kids to play with Legos to give them a feel of actual building, and go from there.

“And yeah, kids nowadays are learning how to do 3-D modeling in school, but unless you’re going to be a mechanical engineer or something, they’re not going to use it. But actually being able to make something with it is really great.”

The makerspace in Syracuse will open in mid-September. Gianatassio says its success will be measured as people’s ideas become tangible objects.