Langara College maker lab offers hands-on opportunities for creative arts and industries students

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      The “maker movement”, a.k.a. maker culture, is taking off across North America as indie artists, DIY artisans, and open-source-software lovers take sheer delight in creating original new objects and designs.

      At Langara College, these creative dynamos have their own maker space, which still hasn’t been officially launched, in one of the former chemistry labs.

      Tomo Tanaka, chair of Langara’s creative arts and industries division, told the Straight by phone that he had just come from this space, where there were a dozen students working on various projects.

      “One of the things I’ve worked hard on as division chair is to have more cross-talk, more interdepartmental and interdivisional discussions,” he said.

      This maker space will make that much more likely to take place in the coming years.

      “It’s basically two rooms right now,” Tanaka explained. “We have 11 3-D printers, two laser cutters, and all the hand tools, like pliers, screwdrivers, hammers, and that kind of stuff. We have a very small CNC router machine and four or five computers there.”

      He said that normally when people talk about maker spaces, the first thing that often comes to mind is 3-D printing. He acknowledged that in the school’s theatre department, one instructor has been trying to print out props from a 3-D printer.

      Yet when the Langara College community was polled, he noted that there was also a surprising level of interest in having access to a really good sewing machine. People also wanted sufficient space to spread things out.

      The maker space is ideal for a division that encompasses a wide range of programs, including design formation, fine arts, film arts, professional photography, theatre arts at Studio 58, and web and mobile design and development.

      Journalism and publishing are also part of creative arts and industries. And soon, a certificate offered in art history will be offered.

      Urgent Sea is an exhibition created by second-year Langara design formation students bringing attention to the pressing issue of sea-level rise.
      Jennifer Oehler/Langara College

      In this division, instructors have a great deal of experience as artists, designers, performers, writers, and photographers. Students graduate with comprehensive portfolios of work to smooth the way to making a living.

      Langara is known for its university-transfer courses, but it’s not well known that there’s a memorandum between Langara and Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

      “Students take their first two years of fine arts here and they can transfer into the visual arts at Emily Carr,” Tanaka said. “Emily Carr loves our students because they have absolutely solid studio practices.”

      In recent years, Tanaka said, Langara has devoted a great deal more attention to helping students in his division learn technical and business skills.

      It’s manifesting itself in the development of a professional-studio-practice course in fine arts, an entrepreneurial course for journalists, and small-business education for photographers.

      “If you’re exceptionally skilled as an artist and you have no business savvy, the world is a very cruel place,” he stated. “So we want people to not just survive but thrive with the business skills. That is a critical part here.”

      Meanwhile, web and mobile design was created as a joint venture between the publishing and computer-science departments.

      The maker space is the next logical step in promoting more individual initiative, learning through doing, and cross-pollination between departments.

      “The maker space will, hopefully, officially launch this fall sometime,” Tanaka said. “But I’m hoping to have an event for the college community in May where people can get more familiar with that.”