The Plan for Maram

I posted this in our local progressives group, am copying it here, mostly as an update for people following along with the makerspace efforts from the last two years. It’s not gone! Just slowed down a bit.

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Hey, folks. So, a question about hosting political conversation in Oak Park. This will be a little complicated, requiring some background.

• two years ago, a group of us, including Carollina Song, tried to put together a non-profit makerspace for Oak Park. We did a budget and quite a lot of research and planning. Maram Makerspace would eventually incorporate shared tools to use there (like 3D printers, laser cutters, embroidery machines), a tool library, workshops and classes, and space rental. (Maram means tree in my native Tamil, and we liked the imagery of a tree spreading out branches and roots of different kinds of making.)

• The hope was to do a space in Oak Park that initially focused on tech, textiles, and writing, but that might eventually expand to Forest Park (in partnership with Urban Pioneer Group), Berwyn, Austin, etc. (Austin, in particular, has warehouse space available affordably), encouraging partnerships and crossing over borders with our neighbors. In expanding, we might be able to incorporate wood and metal workshops, cooking spaces, etc.

• We applied for a $50,000 Big Idea grant, were finalists, but didn’t win the grant. That slowed us down a little, but last March, we were about to put down a year’s rent on a space in Forest Park (more budget-friendly), when the pandemic hit. It seemed irresponsible to start bringing people together in a space right then, so we moved the project to the back burner for a while

• I’m slowly starting it up again, having conversations with people about available spaces, fundraising, etc. As part of that, I realized that we can start fairly quickly with a website / magazine / podcast / virtual classes, so we’re moving ahead with that part this spring.

• Here’s the political piece — the plan for Maram Magazine is to have a decidedly progressive bent generally, and more concretely, to have blogging about gardening, cooking, tech making, writing — but also, local politics. (Eventually, I’d like to have a local + global spin on the whole thing.) I’m hoping to persuade Paul Goyette to let us publish some regular photos from him, for example.

• We will not be trying to replicate what the Wednesday Journal does — we’re not planning to be a newspaper. But I know that I would love a centralized place I could go to, where I know I’d find info on local news of interest to progressives. Where I’d hear about the challenge to Anthony Clark’s candidacy in time to maybe do some good about it, or hear that there’s going to be a protest in front of Brooks to support teachers, or hear about the vigil in front of L!ve Cafe, after a brick was thrown at their door.

• Here’s the ask: If you’re someone who has an interest in political blogging, and might want to write for or (even better) curate / edit the political column on the site, I would love to talk to you. We’re organizing the project on Slack, so you’d need to be willing to use that if you want to be an organizer. Blog writers would just be using WordPress to post their blogs. We can train you easily on either / both of those — they’re very simple and intuitive, and shouldn’t take more than 15-30 minutes to learn.

• Is it paid? you may wonder. Blogging is unpaid for now, but we’d be working towards paying writers / photographers within the first year. Organizational work is also unpaid for now, but ditto that we’d be working towards paying for that down the road. I believe strongly that labor should be paid, at a fair wage, generally. I also think that sometimes a group of dedicated volunteers can change the world. The first budget priority will be space rental, and then all else will hopefully follow.

• If you’re interested in teaching or blogging about tech, textiles, or writing, feel free to let me know that too. We’re putting together a list. For bloggers, we’ll be asking for a writing sample — a few paragraphs or a page, unpublished is fine. For teachers, we’re planning on a 50/50 tuition split. (We did some in-person workshops over the last few years along those lines.)

Okay, that’s the pitch. I’m working from home today (ha ha — I’m always doing that, but I mean that I have a day of quiet e-mail work that isn’t eaten up by teaching classes or hosting meetings), so it’s a good day for me to keep an eye on this thread. Please throw your questions my way.

(And hey, if you know an angel investor who might like to donate some seed money to this project, I’d love to talk to them too. Or leave us a house? 🙂 I direct a 501(c)3 non-profit that is supporting the non-profit piece of this project (we may end up with a for-profit wing, for sales of locally-made artisan work, workshops, and possibly the political elements, if it’s a problem to do those under the non-profit aegis), and I would be very happy to talk to potential larger donors about their tax-deductible contributions. (Don’t forget those company matching funds!) At some point this summer, we’ll probably be running a Kickstarter for the project, at which point we’ll be offering memberships and other ways to make smaller financial contributions.)

Thanks!

My non-profit that gives grants to writers and free writing education; we’ve recently expanded it to arts generally, beyond writing, so all kinds of ‘making’ fall in there: http://www.speculativeliterature.org

The Makerspace website from last year: http://marammakerspace.com

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