When the decade-old volunteer-run bicycle co-op and the arts and crafts group makerspace had nowhere to turn, volunteers and the community of Spearfish collaborated with Niklas Peters to combine the organizations under one roof.
MakeSPACE opened its doors in March 2019. “Since then, we have launched dozens of new programs related to arts, cycling, and community education, including several programs for kids,” Niklas says.
As the sole employee of makeSPACE, Niklas serves as the Program and Outreach Director. He committed to the organization before it even launched, he says, because, “I wanted to help build a community organization in my hometown where all people would feel welcome and challenged to grow and learn together. I’m proud to work for an organization that has an explicit mission to make arts and cycling more accessible to marginalized communities.”
The team consists of eight volunteer board members who work alongside Niklas. They hail from Spearfish and East River to as far away as Johannesburg, South Africa, providing a unique world view on how to make the organization successful in the community. One thing each of the eight individuals has in common is a passion for the environment, arts, and cycling.
Using arts, cycling, and education as tools, makeSPACE educates the Spearfish community that life can be creative, healthy, and fun. Each season brings something new for people of all ages. Following three basic programs—makerspace, bike building and education, and equity—Niklas says, “We advocate for creative and healthy lifestyles.”
Community support for the organization has been overwhelmingly positive. “In our first fundraiser before the organization opened its doors, over 250 community members donated to help raise over $10,000, and more than 30 people have come to volunteer with us,” Niklas says proudly. Several of the programs now offered are the result of a demonstrated community need and interest.
While the organization accepts donated bikes for all ages, “one of the biggest challenges our community faces is lack of access to appropriate tools and equipment,” Niklas states. “Cycling can be a very expensive sport, but with access to community tools, knowledge, and donated bikes, anyone can get started and ride regularly on our paths and trails.”
Every Monday, the group hosts Mini-Makers Hours for pre-K children. Kids build, explore, and create with their guardians in a designated kids area. Other programs include workshops featuring local artists, open art hours with volunteer-led activities such as quilting and oil painting, author talks with local writers in the winter, community workshops for fixing up bikes, and community rides and cycling activities geared toward all ages. “In our first year, we launched several programs specifically for kids and families,” Niklas adds.
The organization also has a partnership with Kids Club Kids to run afterschool programs for children in grades 3-5. Niklas explains, “These sessions, led by local artists, introduce the children to new ways of thinking and fun ways to express their creativity.” In addition to these dedicated programs, makeSPACE offers child supervision for many programs so working parents can participate without having to worry about finding childcare.
With even more participants during warm weather activities, makeSPACE consistently sees 150 visits each month and the organization has proven to be especially impactful for people who are relatively new to the area.
written by Sarah Richards
photos by Jesse Brown Nelson
MakeSPACE is located at 517 W. Jackson Blvd. in Spearfish, SD. Learn more about makeSPACE’s goals & initiatives at makespacesd.org.