Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Collaboration Room in Bloomington: You and Your Thoughts are Welcome

When last we left our heroes from the Bloomington hackerspace, they were working on robotic cats, robotic robots, game controllers, laser harps, 3-D printers, and blinky microcontroller projects in member and laser harp designer Jenette's basement. Fun was had, knowledge was shared, beer was consumed, and Nerf battles were waged.

A month or so ago, we were alerted to the existence of The Collaboration Room, a fairly new place in town that makes the very cool town of Bloomington even cooler. It's a house on 214 N Rogers Street where artists and other collaborators can gather to work on projects. I visited a couple of weeks ago during a Friday night session (these are held every Friday from 5-8pm) with my daughter. We met Matthew and Matisse, and in no time we were contributing to prints that had been started by previous visitors. After doing that for a bit Matthew taught my daughter how to make prints with brayers, barens (new terminology to both of us) and colorful ink. Matthew is a good teacher who works well with kids, so it was not surprising to find out he works for the Boys and Girl's Club of Bloomington.

Some other members of the hackerspace dropped by, so we talked about what hackerspace was about and what we'd been up to, and were graciously invited to have meetings at the Collaboration Room Tuesday nights. It seems to be working out very well, as the 2 groups have the same goal of working on creative projects with people with a variety of skills and different levels of expertise. At the first meeting, the collaborative spirit overtook us, and we put aside individual projects to work on a robotic (servo powered flapping wings) parrot we were determined to put together that night. It was not unlike a reality show challenge, only our opponents were the clock and boredom, both of whom we defeated.

A few days later, some of us went to the Collaboration Room's first benefit at the Bishop. This featured a performance art work involving a guy mowing a small indoor lawn and several local bands. People were invited to participate in the Collaboration Room's Red Circle Animation project (I drew a red unicycle). Prints, including two my daughter and I had worked on, were on the wall for sale. I bought the one my daughter had worked on, so now she has sold work.

Matisse runs an animation workshop on Saturday Morning. Spaces are very limited, so interested parents should contact Matisse via the website. At the first session, we watched some animated works made by previous kids for inspiration. One involved a pair of Gwar/Transformer hybrid characters in a guitar battle. After that, no time was wasted, and the kids dove right in to making clay characters and choosing or making sets for their works. By the end of the session, they had made 3 cartoons.

While The Collaboration Room is very kid-friendly, it is a place for all ages. It's very much about inclusiveness and being accessible to anybody with a desire to participate in a constructive way. As they say, 'everybody brings something to the table'. Matthew has pointed out that Bloomington's Wonderlab (a science museum for kids) started out as a small operation run by a small but very enthusiastic and energetic core of volunteers. Bloomington's community radio station, WFHB, started out that way too. I would love to see The Collaboration Room reach the same level of success the Wonderlab and WFHB have enjoyed. If you live in Bloomington and are interested, go to a Friday Night open session, volunteer your talents and teach a workshop, or donate some art supplies.

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