2011 – 2015 | Vermont Makers

Vermont Makers contribute to local and international conversations about the confluence of art, science and technology. Jenn and her cofounders have contributed to exhibits, public program and maker faires. Members of Vermont Makers were key to the creation of collaborative tech spaces such as the UVM FabLab and the Generator Makerspace, both thrive to this day. In the summer of 2014 and under Jenn’s leadership, Vermont Makers produced 28 programs for Vermont libraries as part of Spark a Culture of Innovation, most of which were in rural locations. The program was widely praised for bringing creative experiential STEAM pedagogy to the far corners of the state. Read more about Vermont Makers.

Building a Community

Photo: Matt Thorsen

When Jenn Karson cofounded the Vermont Makers community last fall, all she wanted was to find people who shared her interests, namely using open-source technologies such as the Arduino to make art. She never expected so many enthusiasts to explode out of the woodwork.

It all started with a Twitter feed. After attending a code camp at UVM, Karson tweeted that she was looking for members to join an Arduino user group. One person contacted her, then another. When they were three, they wrote the Vermont Makers charter and published it in a Google group. Twenty people signed up, and Karson was contacted by Ken Howell at Champlain College, who offered them a place to gather.

In this digital age, face-to-face contact is still crucial when it comes to building a community. “Without that, I don’t think it would be flourishing,” says (John) Cohn. And physical gatherings are crucial to Vermont Makers’ mission, which includes hosting meet-ups, workshops and even a monthly book club (July’s book is Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age by Douglas Rushkoff).

Karson and co. decided to hold their first meet-up immediately after a talk at Champlain College by the California algorithmic artist Casey Reas, whose work was exhibited at the BCA Center. A rock star in the maker world, Reas creates his organic abstractions using the open-source software platform he developed specifically for visual artists, called Processing.

It was a smart move — 40 people showed up for Reas’ talk, and 60 came to the maker meet-up afterward. Vermont Makers was off the ground.

“My interest is creating a community that is made up of tech, arts and science people who come together to share ideas,” says Karson.

-Seven Days Newspaper, Vermont Hackers, Artists and Inventors are Sharing Ideas — and Solving Problems, 2012.

Vermont Librarians and Makers Spark a Culture of Innovation