Above: Foo Fest on Empire Street; Below: People of all ages Learning to Solder at the Rhode Island Mini Maker Faire.
This past weekend I took a quick jaunt up to Providence to attend the 5th annual Rhode Island Mini Maker Faire. Taking place in the smallest state in the Union, there’s nothing slight about this Mini Maker Faire. The past few years they’ve teamed up with the pioneering non-profit arts organization AS220 and their annual Foo Fest, formerly Fool’s Ball. Closing off Empire Street between Washington and Westminster Streets, the Mini Maker Faire takes place inside of Foo Fest, with approximately 5,000 people showing up for this annual event.
Food trucks and carts packed one end of the block, while a large music stage occupied the other end. In the middle, multiple tents of varying sizes were scattered throughout, with stores along the street opening their doors and curating events – from music acts to a flea market – to coincide with Foo Fest.
The Rhode Island Mini Maker Faire takes places inside the Pell Chafee Performance Center, a former bank turned dance and theater venue with a three-story tall ceiling. More than 30 makers filled the floor, with projects ranging from interactive and hands-on activities to commercial crafters.
The “pinvention” pinball machine by David M. Gaskill, PE produced a pleasant bing-ding-ding sound throughout the space all day long. One of the surprise projects was the Self Balancing People Mover by Adrian Niles, a homemade Segway that recently competed for and won a national engineering award. Adrian’s project will also be on view next month at World Maker Faire in NYC.
And then there was 3D Printing. A dozen different models of 3D printers were busy extruding throughout the day, introducing many attendees to this now staple Maker Faire tech. Along with the machines themselves, DIY action figures allowed kids and adults alike to interact with physically printed toys. A self-portrait bust and movie and video game props showed how 3D printing can extend into other areas of artistic expression. While the 3D Print Mars Settlement asked ‘why not’ when it comes to print-on-demand-on-another-planet.
Under the main tent in the street AS220 Labs provided crafting & silkscreening activities, along with photobooths, costumed performances, a book fair and zine library, and so much more. The pictures below further document some of the projects on view.
The real takeaway moment was when I looked around and realized the numerous contributions Providence and Rhode Island at large (while being a small state) have made to Maker Faire from coast to coast. From flameworking to 3D printing to AS220 Labs – from art technique to hobbyist manufacturing to membership-driven organizations – there’s a nexus of creativity in the Hope state. Like the founding principles of that state, there’s a unique maker freedom to be explored there.
And now for the pictures!
The evening before the launch of Foo Fest and the Rhode Island Mini Maker Faire, a couple dozen makers, artists, and designers met up at Betaspring to enjoy beer & pizza & good conversation:
Later in the evening, after sunset when things started winding down, I took a tour of the actual AS220 Labs. Thanks to Chris for suggesting the idea and James for leading us through their wonderful space.