The first RVA Makerfest, held last year, drew nearly 4,500 people to the Science Museum of Virginia to see 69 groups of folks who make stuff. “We had drones, puppets, robots, bees, farm animals, kilns, anvils, virtual reality — it was fantastic,” says Corey Lane, an account supervisor at The Martin Agency who helped organize the event with volunteers from the museum, The Collegiate School, Maxx Potential, Phoenix Handcraft and 804RVA. We asked him a few questions by email about how it all came together.
Style: What sparked the idea for the first RVA Makerfest?
Lane: A few of us at The Martin Agency had been talking about the global maker movement: how people are using new tools and DIY platforms to turn their ideas into reality. We observed that Richmond has incredibly talented makers creating remarkable things across a full spectrum of mediums — from “lost arts,” like print-making and glassblowing, to cutting-edge tech. But these folks tended to move in small circles. RVA MakerFest is intended to help break down these silos and promote the cross-pollination of ideas, project-based learning and the S.T.E.A.M. disciplines [science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics] as paths to innovation. It started as an event for the agency, but quickly blew up into a regional celebration as we found additionally passionate partners in the community.
What did you notice that seemed to surprise most attendees?
I think a lot of people were surprised about the depth of creativity in their own backyards. Whether it was a mural, an upcycled sound system, or a map of Richmond the size of a bed sheet, people loved being involved in the process of what goes into creating these things, rather than simply seeing the finished product.
It was also great to see the natural synergies and collaborations that bubbled up when different makers got in the same room. Attendees were able to build a bat box with one maker, and then have it branded by blacksmiths, or learn how to make soap from sheep’s milk and then sculpt a soap dish.
Considering the vendors who showed their work, what does this say about Richmond’s “makers”?
Richmond’s makers are an incredibly welcoming and supportive community. So many of them went above and beyond to think of ways to involve attendees in their demonstrations, and to put sales on the back burner for a day to focus on teaching their crafts. Taken as a whole, RVA’s maker community reinforces Richmond’s growing reputation as a hotbed for creativity, arts, technology and entrepreneurism.
RVA MakerFest returns to the Science Museum of Virginia on Saturday, Oct. 3, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Local makers can apply to participate till July 12. Find more information at rvamakerfest.com.