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The Case For a Makerspace in Downtown Fresno

Written by Janelle Smith Ozeran

Fresno Ideaworks, established in 2012 in downtown Fresno, California, is a source of a myriad of tools and creative opportunities. But, like makers everywhere, we also value our friendships, collaborative projects, the comfort of our “third space”, and the therapeutic value of getting our hands dirty as we mold clay, wood, metal, textiles, electronics, or plastics into something new and wonderful. 

Over eight years Fresno Ideaworks has grown from a small group of friendly hackers into a community workshop full of curious and creative people, eager to learn and hone new skills and share them with anyone who comes through our doors.  But since the 16th of March 2020 our doors have been closed to all regular activity – a crushing situation for people who come to the Shop for any reason, and a threatening blow to our survival as a non-profit, all-volunteer, member-driven organization. 

We immediately joined the ranks of makerspaces all over the country, manufacturing PPE for healthcare professionals and other essential workers. Collaborating with two other non-profits in Fresno – Root Access Hackerspace, and Pi Shop Fresno – we designed, manufactured, and delivered more than 4000 pieces of PPE by the first week of May to everyone from hospital nurses to bus drivers, and from mail carriers to food service workers.  We are very proud of our role in helping protect our neighbors and caregivers, but we are also very proud of the collaborative effort. We are already trying to imagine what new projects we can undertake together when our spaces are open again! 

Meanwhile, we have lost nearly 15% of our membership, and watching our family shrink is breaking our hearts. A goal for the immediate future is to establish a sponsorship fund for those former members facing financial hardship because of the COVID-19 experience. Although our membership fees are among the lowest for similar spaces, they are suddenly an impossible luxury for some, even though the emotional health benefits of making and creating would go a long way to ease the anxiety those same people are experiencing. 

We also have to focus more intently on the facility upgrades that will enable us to welcome more members with a greater diversity of skills and abilities throughout the entire space. Maintaining a historic building is already a huge challenge (one we makers welcome), but opening the whole structure to more makers will require the help of angels that embrace our mission. Downtown Fresno, and our Cultural Arts District neighborhood in particular, have suffered the adversity of economic downturn for several decades now. Ideaworks is relentlessly dedicated to being part of the growth of both the economic health of the neighborhood, and, through skill-building and fellowship, part of the economic and emotional well-being of everyone who comes through our doors. 

Please help however you can. Donations to Ideaworks general fund can also be made through our website at https://ideaworksmakerspaces.org/Donate, through Venmo at @Fresno-Ideaworksthrough, or through Givebutter (https://givebutter.com/KbPYYR). And thank you, in advance, from all of us at Fresno Ideaworks.

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Explore – Review: Evening Events in the Valley

We are nearing the end of the summer season. The days are still long, and the nights will soon begin to cool, which means it’s a great time to take advantage of some of the evening events happening around the Central Valley. Here are three that I think are worth checking out.

Gazebo Gardens Beer Garden

3204 N. Van Ness Blvd, Fresno CA
Thurs-Sat year round
5:30 pm – 9:00 pm

If you’re looking for an evening of food and music in a beautiful locale, then Gazebo Gardens is your destination. They turn this nursery into a Beer Garden with food trucks and live music every Thursday through Saturday evening year round. You can grab a bottle of beer or select one of the 5-8 beers on tap at one of the two stands. Then, wander through the roses, statues, and shrubs to find seating nestled between the plants. Kids love to run through the gardens, playing tag around the trees and under the gazebo, and watching for the trains that pass by throughout the evening. There is even a raised pond to explore. 

When you’re feeling peckish, stroll through an assortment of food trucks. There are generally 8-12 trucks to choose from, and they rotate regularly so you can find your favorites and try new ones. We have sampled sliders from Meltdown Bistro, chicken tikka masala from Ganesha Masala, falafel and gyros from Holy Shish, vegan burritos from El Jaca, and both creamy and boozy shaved ice from Sno Cafe. All are delicious and are made better by the friendly and relaxed environment. And did I mention the dogs? Gazebo Gardens is dog friendly and usually abounds with furry friends. 

There is always a live band performing on their small stage near one of the beer garden taps. There are picnic-style tables in front, and a few more rows off to the side. Some even have inset fire pits for cooler evenings. While there are tables and chairs scattered throughout the gardens, seating can be hard to come by on more popular nights. I suggest sending a scout while you wait for your beer or dinner. Luckily, people are generally friendly and wander around when not eating, so seating eventually becomes available. And even if you can’t get a spot near the band, the music carries throughout the gardens, making it a lovely evening anywhere you go.

Lindsay Friday Night Market

Honolulu St/Sweet Brier Plaza, Lindsay, CA
Fridays year round
5:30 pm – 10:00 pm

If you love a good swap meet, but hate the mornings, check out the Lindsay Friday Night Market. The small town of Lindsay is home to many Hispanic and Latino families, and their cultures shine at this event. The town square is a lively hub for the market, and is often filled with people dancing to live music or a DJ. There are rows and rows of vendors selling both original and discounted goods. You can even shop for birds and farm animals. There are, in fact, so many vendors and rows that I almost got lost during my first visit. Luckily, I had a regular patron with me to keep me oriented. 

In addition to traditional goods, art, and animals, you can find an assortment of delectable food. There are the market staples of kettle corn, pizza, and hot dogs, but the real treats are the cultural options. We endured an epic line for delicious pupusas made by hand right in front of us. My boyfriend indulged in his favorite, elote (corn). I grew up eating corn on the cob, but elote comes with a buffet of possible toppings, including mayonnaise, Tajin (seasoning powder), lime, salt, and hot sauce.  

The atmosphere was friendly and lively, but not for the agoraphobic. We attended on a sweltering summer night, and the place was still packed. People were generally friendly and eager to chat, but there were long lines and crowded walkways. However, if you’re not daunted by a crowd and enjoy a festive environment, add the Lindsay Night Market to your Friday night plans.

Clovis Farmers Market

Pollasky between 5th & Bullard, Old Town Clovis, CA
Fridays during summer
5:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Saturdays year round
9:00 am – 11:30 am

If you’re looking for a laid back farmers market with plenty to explore, check out the Clovis Farmers Market. You can explore local produce, handmade items, and food year round every Saturday, but during the summer months you can also visit the market on Friday evenings. It is a nice way to wrap up the week and get some yummy produce for your weekend. 

I enjoyed wandering the three blocks lined with beautiful, local produce and flowers the most, but my 5 year old enjoyed the live performances and mini train ride more. There was a band set up in the center intersection, and when they were on break a local group of cloggers called the California Ground Pounders stepped in to perform. I wasn’t familiar with the genre, but it was fun to watch. If you haven’t witnessed it, envision people in modified tap shoes doing a cross between square and line dancing. And it was clear this group enjoyed what they were doing, despite the heat. 

The Clovis Farmers Market does a good job interspersing crafters, produce vendors, local companies, and food options throughout the market. There is, however, a cluster of food stations near the main intersection along with some picnic tables which were, unfortunately, in direct sunlight. We visited our friends at Fine Print Plus, bought some organic local berries, and checked out a few handmade items. We wrapped up our evening by enjoying a second band at the far end of the market, right before embarking on a windy little off-track train ride. My son was sad to go, but declared the evening a success, and I agreed.