Celebrating creativity at Spark Makerspace

Drew Gates, Mark McKee, John Scimone and Stu Sharack attend the grand opening May 5 of Spark Makerspace’s latest incarnation on State Street in New London. (Photo by Victor Fillepp)
Drew Gates, Mark McKee, John Scimone and Stu Sharack attend the grand opening May 5 of Spark Makerspace’s latest incarnation on State Street in New London. (Photo by Victor Fillepp)

Casey Moran is someone who understands well the essence of an inspirational quote uttered by famed football coach Vince Lombardi of the legendary 1960s Green Bay Packers: “The measure of your character is not in the number of victories you attain ... It’s in the number of times you rise from defeat to continue pursuing victory!”

In the past few months, Moran finally celebrated victory after rising from smoldering defeats that would have leveled any number of souls lacking in his brand of mettle. His passion and unrelenting drive to establish a viable meeting place for those he has deemed “creatives” has transcended the definition of resilience.

Moran’s vision for the recently resurrected Spark Makerspace is rooted in a promising premise: “A location where likeminded individuals can delve into their arts & crafts, enhanced by the optional input and exchange generated by one another.”

He thought he had previously established such a home-base for creatives of varying arts that would serve, in essence, as an ongoing summitry for them to express and develop their own range of skills that could be shared. But the infrastructure then was not yet in its developmental prime.

Spark’s early flight on fledgling wings faltered while at the old El ‘n’ Gee facility on Golden Street in New London. A satellite gift shop tagged the “Spark Emporium,” also on Golden Street, met with an early end too. The entire collective soon dissolved, though the spirit of those involved did not waver.

Moran and his loyal associates did not feel so inclined to see their dreams collapse.

“Our community remained strong,” he explained during an interview last month at the Washington Street Coffee House in New London, an establishment that draws its own share of creative-minded souls. “Our goal was to get our focus straight and to coordinate a means of organizing our collective of creatives, which includes not only painters, sculptors, writers and artists ... but also engineers, woodworkers, and even those who work with Adobe software & electronics.”

Through the perseverance and determination sustained by Moran and his loyal team working for months with no salary at all, they finally managed to obtain a coveted Palmer Grant. It allowed Spark Makerspace to move into a recently renovated facility on State Street in New London.

Casey Moran now serves as its official, salaried director, whose job it is to link an eclectic assemblage of arts & crafts-driven individuals together in a single community.

“Spark Makerspace is where free-spirited artists, craftsme, and artisans can all meet in the same facility, but in separate stations where they have the option of either working privately or conferring and sharing with their fellow creatives as well,” he said.

In partnering with the Hygienic, the resurrected Spark Makerspace also offers shared activities in electronics, engineering, 3-D printing and and coding as well. It’s a wide gamut that Spark runs and, for those who join, it’s what Casey Moran has termed “an electronics playground.” They also welcome anyone eager to experiment with new skills.

“It’s been an exhausting process trying to get everything up and running again,” he explained, “and it’s definitely left me feeling thoroughly spent. At one point I thought it really was just going to all dissolve. We had been reliant on grants, but now we’ve discovered a variety of ways to be sustainable. The Palmer Grant especially has made a big difference for us. It’s all been worth it.”

Moran reaffirms, repeatedly, that the dream of such a sophisticated and extensive range of “creatives” — as he proudly describes the Spark collective — is the result of the many members who volunteered their services with such devotion over the past half-year. He believes such a community will be a major boon to southeastern Connecticut.

The Spark Makerspace, located at 225 State St., is now fully operational and open from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. It is available to artists and artisans and especially to those whose range of craftsmanship transcends the traditional image of what constitutes an artist — thus the term “creatives” coined by Moran.

Fiber arts, glass arts, print-making, it’s all there, along with the more recognizable artforms. General membership is $55 a month, with all members receiving discounts on classes that are open to the general public. Working members, those who exchange volunteer time for discounts, pay $30 a month.

Moran sees it all as a “golden opportunity” and sums it up with a light in his eye that glows like a comet streaming through space: “My dream is that people will start using our space in the same way and with the same passion that fitness buffs pursue their ends.”

A grand opportunity for the public to share immediately in the Spark Makerspace experience presents itself at the Hygienic Park on Bank Street, New London, Sunday, July 29: Spark’s Summer Melt, pegged as “a family fun celebration of art and technology.” The event will take place from noon-5 p.m., rain or shine, and is sponsored by Chelsea-Groton Bank.

It will serve as a fundraiser for Spark Makerspace; admission $5 per person, $20 covering an entire family. A host of interactive creative activities will be available to everyone who attends, or, as Moran terms it: “Come ‘make’ with us!” Music and dancing will be a part of the all-day celebration of arts and technologies.

For more information, email casey@sparkmakerspace.org.

Instructor Drew Gates works with students at Spark Makerspace July 1 during an electronics class. (Photo by Victor Fillepp)
Instructor Drew Gates works with students at Spark Makerspace July 1 during an electronics class. (Photo by Victor Fillepp)

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