Mason Gross Alumnus Inspires Creativity at the Newark Museum’s MakerSPACE

Mason Gross Alumnus Inspires Creativity at the Newark Museum’s MakerSPACE

MakerSPACE allows visitors of all ages to play, tinker, create and connect with art

Makerspaces, which provide a venue with shared resources and tools where people of all ages can create, have been finding their way into schools and libraries, industrial parks, museums and science centers. The Newark Museum hosts its own MakerSPACE, managed by Rutgers alumnus Ryan Reedell, which provides visitors an opportunity to recreate some of the artwork on exhibition at the museum. Rutgers Today spoke with Reedell about what visitors can find and do when they drop by the MakerSpace at the museum.

What is the MakerSPACE at the Newark Museum and what is its mission?
Reedell: The MakerSPACE at the Newark Museum is a gallery that combines exhibitions of objects from the museum’s collections with interactive activities. People can get hands-on experience with the techniques that were used to create the art on view, fostering a greater appreciation for the works of art and the skill of the artist.

The MakerSPACE also houses the Digital Maker Lab that includes banks of computers, 3-D printers of varied sizes and functions, and electronic components including speakers, lights and sensors. Visitors can use the computers for research, 2-D design and 3-D modeling, photo manipulation and computer programming.

And finally, the MakerSPACE includes the MakerSTUDIO. This space is more of an industrial arts area and includes multi-use worktables, soldering stations, traditional hand tools and a variety of power tools.

The mission of the MakerSPACE at the museum is to allow visitors of all ages to play, tinker and create as they make connections between the materials, processes and concepts of objects of art and science in the museum’s collections and their own creativity.

What is the target audience for the MakerSPACE?
Reedell: Everyone.  A section of the MakerSPACE is designed to engage the littlest makers with our “Step into the City” interactive exhibit, which is an immersive reinterpretation of Joseph Stella’s painting The Voice of the City of New York Interpreted, 1922. The exhibit brings the abstract and futurist painting to life with push-button sounds and music and over-sized building blocks; a light-up subway tunnel to crawl through; and a wooden toy train table that spills out from the painting's first of five panels.

The MakerSPACE also hosts some of the many school groups that visit the museum annually. The museum provides gallery and making experiences to more than 100,000 school students every year. Additionally, the MakerSPACE facilitates intensive, project-based programs for high school students to explore tools, techniques and materials and to develop their own museum-inspired creations.

Lastly, the MakerSPACE offers courses and workshops, facilitated by teaching artists and artisans, that provide understanding and practice from a spectrum of disciplines including ceramics, 3-D printing, beer-making and collage, to name a few.

What is the value of a makerspace, especially having one located at the museum?
Reedell: Makerspaces, in general, give people access to tools and instruction that enable them to create. The MakerSPACE at the Newark Museum does this too, but as a lens for deeper viewing of objects of art and science and to cultivate a greater appreciation for the skill and traditions of artists.

How did Rutgers prepare you for your job and what are some things you learned at Rutgers that you are applying to the MakerSPACE?
Reedell: I have a BFA in Visual Arts from Mason Gross School of the Arts with a concentration in printmaking. My education at Rutgers gave me a foundational understanding of art history as well as the opportunity to investigate a myriad of art-making techniques. I took classes in painting, photography, drawing, ceramics, sculpture, graphic design and printmaking. This range of studio work allowed me to develop an understanding and appreciation for a multitude of materials, techniques tools and processes.

What are some of the most original/unusual projects you have seen people create? Has anything you’ve seen people do at the MakersSPACE surprised you?
Reedell: The magic is in the process more than the product. Visitors are offered lots of materials to work with and have countless sources of inspiration in the galleries. From there, people make just about anything from decorative objects to functional machines. But no matter what they’re making, each visitor takes his or her own unique approach. The focus of the MakerSPACE is to engage visitors in the process of finding a spark of inspiration, imagining the possibilities, understanding the constraints and overcoming the challenges. Through this process, visitors learn more about themselves, and the art and artist that inspire them.

– Andrea Alexander