Settled in smaller location, Spark Makerspace awarded $30K grant

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New London — Spark Makerspace has announced it has been awarded a $30,000 grant from the Frank Loomis Palmer Fund, money that will be used to pay its executive director and provide scholarships for prospective members in need of financial assistance.

The fund, established in 1936, is a Bank of America philanthropic program specifically for New London.

The grant follows a rough several months for the cooperative, creative workspace, which went all-volunteer, downsized into a new location, and closed Spark Emporium, its short-lived retail store on Golden Street.

"It's hard to run an all-volunteer retail store," admitted Casey Moran, who has been volunteering as executive director of Spark Makerspace for six months but soon will be paid.

He expressed gratitude to Hygienic Art for support during this time, and cited connections in recent months with Ignite, a Thames River Innovation Place program that holds educational events about business development.

Spark faced financial difficulties late last year with the loss of state and federal funding sources.

At the end of November, the organization moved from its 9,000-square-foot space at 86 Golden St. — now housing RD86, a cultivator kitchen and restaurant — into 5,000 square feet at 225 State St.

On May 5 from noon to 5 p.m., Spark is holding an open house and maker show. Moran explained that it will include electronics teams showing off 3-D printers and artists bringing creations like screen-prints and quilts.

Spark currently has about 50 members, a combination of general members who pay $55 per month and working members who pay $30 per month and also work at least eight hours per month.

Members can come in any time from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and tinker in Spark's workstations, which include electronics, woodshop, screen-printing, stained glass, printmaking, fiber arts, small metals and drawing and painting.

The layout of the new space is different, with separate rooms for the different workstations instead of an open space.

"I'm seeing it more active during the day," Moran commented.

Spark also holds events that are open to nonmembers, such as open sew, drawing night and writer's meetup. While these events tend to run about $5 each, Moran said they serve as great member drives.

"We'd really like to grow our membership," he said, with member fees covering more of the operational costs, while programs "would be done through grants."

Moran said of his mission at Spark, "I was blessed being supported to be an artist, but I think there are still people out there that just aren't encouraged to be creative."

e.moser@theday.com

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