About five years ago, Elise and Adam Spontarelli had an idea: What if there was a place in Lynchburg where creative people could go to practice their skills and have access to whatever they needed? And what if there was a place dedicated to helping people learn new things that they may not ordinarily have an opportunity to learn? They’d heard about such places, but nothing of the sort existed in Lynchburg. So they decided to form Vector Space, a place dedicated to creativity. Recently, we sat down with the Spontarellis to talk about this organization, how it has impacted the Lynchburg community and their hopes for the future.
Vector Space is a business in Downtown Lynchburg that is known as a makerspace. According to Elise and Adam, a makerspace is a community space for people to share resources, learn and to use tools to create goods. It’s a place where anyone can come and have access to whatever resources they need to build something with their hands.
As a makerspace, Vector Space already has wide appeal: anyone from lawyers to chemists to engineers to artists to students can use the space. All that is required is a passion to learn and a dedication to apply and improve in what they’ve learned. Many people, the Spontarellis have found, want to make things, but don’t have the means to do so. People who’ve never practiced any kind of craft can come and learn, as can people who’ve been practicing a craft for most of their lives.
Their business has many focus areas: woodworking, welding, blacksmithing, 3D printing, laser engraving, electronics and sewing, just to name a few. Adam says they’ve seen people make rockets that they’ve actually fired off, catapults for launching pumpkins, skateboards (one of which actually won a Nation of Makers conference award) and fighting robots.
Vector Space offers educational classes of all kinds. Beginner classes introduce members to the fundamentals of a particular trade or craft, while intermediate classes take learning to the next level. They also have trade experts teach classes as a way of educating and empowering members. They even have programs for high school students who don’t have any other opportunities to learn these skills, including camps that help students prepare for college. They are careful to keep the instructor-student ratio low for all classes, so there’s plenty of opportunity to learn for all.
This makerspace also offers opportunities for entrepreneurs to set up shop and utilize tools they wouldn’t have access to otherwise. According to Elise, one of the current projects they have in progress is making Vector Space more friendly to small business owners. They already help with this by hosting CO.STARTERS entrepreneur classes. However, they’re also working to create office space areas where these people can get started with a good foundation.
One of the joys that many people find in taking part in this makerspace is discovering that they enjoy doing things they never even thought they would do. Having an opportunity to learn a trade like woodworking or making models in a 3D printer opens up possibilities for all kinds of creative work.
Additionally, Vector Space is always available. Members are given keys to the space, so they can come and go as they choose. The Spontarellis have found that many people like to come in evenings after work. Someone with an office job may want to build something with their hands after a long day of looking at a computer screen. An artist may come by during down time to make something for themself after spending time making things for others. This is simply a place where anyone can come and experience the joy of creating something.
Vector Space has also helped the community by building things like puzzles, a light-up LYH letter sign, home goods and lights for the Downtown Bluffwalk. These items and others have been used for local events, businesses and nonprofit organizations, such as Get Downtown, Oktoberfest, the Junior League of Lynchburg, The Motherhood Collective, One Way Out Escape Rooms and Camp Kum-Ba-Ya. The members take pride in being able to help the community while also doing something they love.
Every day that Elise and Adam come to work, they do something new and find new things to make. Every day is a surprise, an opportunity to grow, and they want that for the Lynchburg community. They want Vector Space to be the “community’s makerspace”. Since they opened four years ago, this business has experienced exponential growth, beginning at 15 members and currently sitting at about 120. The Spontarellis have not deviated from their original plan. However, they are working to grow well and intentionally, to build and foster a community that is well-rounded, well-organized, solid and sustainable in the long run.
This makerspace is transforming the Lynchburg area. If you want to be a part of it, contact Vector Space today.