Walking up to the colorful, 4,000-square-foot space that is the Taos Launchpad ignites the same feeling one might get when you’re a kid approaching an arcade, or heading back to summer camp.
It’s one of those feelings that tends to slowly fade, reduce in occurrence as we get older, till it’s maybe completely forgotten. That feeling is a sense of wonder, of unlimited opportunity in both play, imagination and, in this case, creation. What may be a makerspace, is in so many ways, also a playspace with something for every age, gender, income, and requires no previous experience — in anything.
Sectioned off into spaces for everything from 3D printing and Computer Numerical Control (CNC) routing to computer programming, woodworking, music and video production, sewing and more, one can have access to tools they already know but can also learn some serious new skills.
One of the Launchpad founders, Kyle Butler, represents the essence of this “learn it, make it” approach, as he himself has no previous experience in business or makerspaces, but rather a deep drive to learn and use new skills, and a need to share this with others.
This is an integral part of the boot-strapping spirit in which the Launchpad came into being; Butler had conceived of the idea for the Launchpad and posed a question to a local Facebook group for assistance, asking if anyone had a room to donate for a community workshop.
Within 24 hours Becky Holsinger, owner of local thrift and consignment store, Pieces, contacted Butler to offer the large warehouse next to Holsinger’s second location on Paseo del Cañon. The Launchpad is now accepting volunteers to help them, organize, add tools to their growing collection, teach classes and just about anything else one might have to offer. Parents can even volunteer or partake while little ones let their imaginations run wild in the “kid zone.”
The Launchpad’s mission is to create a place where everyone has access to the space and tools they might not otherwise, and mainly to encourage, inspire and stimulate innovation in the youth of Taos through access to such facilities. Butler and co-founders Paige McCluggage and Montana Hall want to provide opportunities through programs designed to foster education, vocational access, and creativity.
Not only did the founders want to provide a new place for the youth of Taos to hangout and create, but Butler in particular was adamant that the space also tackle the issues of e-waste at the Taos recycling center. Butler, a true jack-of-all-trades, has equipped the entire Launchpad computer lab with desktop computers that he found at that very location, and brought back to life. Butler says he wants to teach people the value of these machines and how easy it is to repair them while reducing the amount of waste in the process. As an added bonus, people will also be adding new vocational skills to their own proverbial toolbox that they can apply to other machinery.
Although the Launchpad is still new, with fresh coats of paint, books and tools being added daily, the founders have a clear vision for what they ultimately hope it will mean for Taos’s future. Butler says they imagine a space that will one day provide steady jobs for people in the community, offer more opportunities to low-income individuals and families, and provide kids and teens the option to fill their down time with creative, productive endeavors that will teach them new skills they can be proud of and apply directly to tasks in the “real world.”
“This is a developing community space. We want everyone to know they are welcome to participate with the Launchpad in many ways,” Butler says. “Just stop in and come see what we have going on.”
All are welcome; to help build — not just their own projects, but the Launchpad itself, and in this way, make anyone and everyone a Maker in their own right.
Lorenne Gavish is a writer, performer, director, social justice advocate and, during the daylight hours, a domestic/sexual violence prevention educator. Her production and performance process centers around (what she calls) “surrealist improv” and she invites others to approach her with ideas anytime. She lives in Taos with her desert-mutt, Tahli.