You might think that amongst the laser cutters and table saws of NextFab, Wilmington’s newest makerspace, it would be hard for a “traditional” artist to find a home. Well, you’d be wrong.
“Art takes many forms, said Monica Lopez. “And by learning new skills, we get a different perspective on how to create.
NextFab is new to Wilmington, having only just opened their doors June 2016. Headquartered in Philadelphia, NextFab’s mission is to provide a workspace for entrepreneurs, technologists and makers alike. Now, with their new location in the heart of the Creative District, NextFab seeks to work with artists as well.
“There tools and techniques in the ‘building world’ that can give you a completely different perspective on how you create art,” said Danny Martinez.
Monica and her brother Danny are two local artists who have decided to try their hand at learning some new skills to advance their work. Thanks to the Innovation Workshops at NextFab they’ve were able to do just that.
The Innovation Workshops at NextFab were a partnership between Creative District Wilmington and NextFab, with support from the Delaware Division of the Arts, to provide local artists tuition-free classes and workshops in the new facility. The opportunity also provided a membership that would allow the artists to put their newly learned skills to the test.
Monica and Danny say that most of their work involves painting and sketching but they have been looking for different ways to approach their work.
“I now have access to things like the designing program, Adobe Illustrator,” said Danny. “I probably wouldn’t have had access to software like that without coming here. Learning how to use it and getting to put some hours in using the program will really help me take my art to new levels.”
Danny, a big fan of T-shirt art, said now he plans to begin designing his own line of graphics that he would print on T-shirts and stickers. However, the opportunity to learn how to design on advance programs like Illustrator also opens other doors that the brother and sister team are eager to open. Mural painting.
“I never knew how important it is to know Photoshop and Illustrator for the mural process,” said Danny. “That was a big revelation. One that I’ve kind of forced myself to get into NextFab and learn.”
The siblings heard about the Innovation workshops through their work with the Creative District. They are frequent volunteers in its mural program.
“I learned about the Creative District and the mural program through the Latin American Community Center,” said Monica. “I was told about it and really wanted to go. I brought Danny along because I saw that he wasn’t really doing much with his life outside of work.”
“I really wasn’t,” he said. “I would come home from work and just and sit and watch TV after work. Going to the mural paint days and meeting the muralist, Eric Okdeh really helped me in redeveloping my love for art and it really motivated me. If it wasn’t for Monica, the Creative District and Eric, I would probably be doing the same after work.”
Monica finds inspiration and empowerment when working with the Creative District and getting involved.
“I never really felt comfortable with my English,” she said. “I still don’t, but when I go to the Paint Days or go help install a mural, or even go to a class at NextFab, I don’t feel as scared or worried because I’m surrounded by a new group of friends. Now I am confident when I go and participate in the Creative District and NextFab because we all speak the language of art, creating and making.”
Someday, Danny and Monica would like to see their own mural in the city. They both said the Innovation Workshops are the next step in their journey as artists, and Monica said it’s not just about learning new skills and techniques.
“My husband works with many of the tools I’ve used while in the woodshop here at NextFab,” she said. “I can now use them on my own. This can be very empowering for people who want to learn how to take care of things around the home, on top of adding it to their skill set when it comes to art.”
It seems like a strange mix – painters and 3D printers (which can be found at NextFab).
“But if you really think about it, building is really an art,” said Danny. “I’m a big fan of these Japanese-style wood boxes and Japanese woodworking in general. It takes woodworking to the next level and they look like pieces of art. That’s what I want to do, add new skills that could help me achieve a new level of artistic expression.”
Danny and Monica represent one of the major goals of the Creative District – to create a space for artist to meet and develop their craft so they can contribute to the city’s artistic community.
Creative District Wilmington is committed to continuing to expand options for creative expression for artist and residents alike. Its NextMakerz program is an example of this. The program gives young Wilmingtonians, ages 16 to 24, a tuition-free opportunity to learn tech skills in a fun environment.
NextFab is still new to Wilmington but they have a lot to offer anyone who has an itch to learn and make. The best way to find out more is to schedule a tour today and see for yourself.
The Innovation Workshops are supported, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. The Division promotes Delaware arts events on www.DelawareScene.com.