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Cruces Creatives: a makerspace that hums with invention

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In 2018, Lea Wise-Surguy chose Las Cruces as her laboratory for a new idea that she’d been putting together in Dayton, Ohio. The laboratory now operates as Cruces Creatives (CC) at the 205 E. Lohman Ave., where – in normal times – the place bustles with staff and volunteers chasing dreams and projects in a space created for exactly those pursuits.

“Our mission is to connect people with the tools, training and community to make practically anything,” she said. “This broad mission encompasses related goals for advancing education, the arts, economic development, environmental protection, social wellbeing and scientific research in Doña Ana County and throughout New Mexico.”

To facilitate the mission of Cruces Creatives, Wise-Surguy said the physical space has to be both educational and practical, and it has to have broad appeal to a wide spectrum of people in the community.

“People can be involved at CC in multiple ways,” she said. “Outside of pandemic times, one of the most straightforward ways to get involved is to attend a class or workshop. During regular operations, there are 60-75 educational events each month, covering every tool area in the makerspace, and many classes and workshops are free.”

To fund the operation, Wise-Surguy said CC sells memberships and relies heavily on a cadre of volunteers to keep overhead to a minimum. Individual memberships, she said, are $45 a month, which includes access to the tools and equipment during open hours, discounts on all classes and workshops, multiple free classes and workshops and some members-only events. Other membership options are available for groups and people who volunteer rather than shell out cash.

“Cruces Creatives is run primarily by a team of more than 60 volunteers, and three hours of volunteering per week equals a membership,” she said. “Volunteering options are available in pretty much every aspect of the makerspace, from fixing tools, helping keep the space clean, working on marketing, grant writing, accounting or teaching classes and workshops. In almost every area of interest and ability, there’s a volunteer position available.”

She said people can also support the makerspace by donating cash or tools.

“Cruces Creatives has been built without any major funding using a sort of ‘stone soup’ approach to gathering and sharing tools, and more cash and tools are always welcome,” she said.

Like every other place deemed non-essential when the COVID-19 pandemic reared its head, CC closed its doors to the public when the stay-home order came down from the governor’s office. But that didn’t mean the space was idle. Wise-Surguy said the staff and volunteers seized on an opportunity to be of assistance to the larger community.

“We’re producing personal protective equipment for medical personnel using makerspace tools and a network of 80 volunteers,” she said. “We’re developing systems and procedures for a tool-lending library, which has been a long-time goal that COVID accelerated and we’re using the downtime to plan multiple programs and partnerships that we can launch when it’s again safe to open.”

As the pandemic comes under control, Wise-Surguy said CC will adopt a phased approach to reopening – and she forecasts growth in both the facility size and the scope of operations going forward.

“We’re currently in a 12,400 square-foot facility with hundreds of different tools and dedicated areas for woodworking, electronics, 3D printings, laser cutting, bicycle building/repair, audio recording, photography, textiles, children's learning and more,” she said. “In the 5- to 10-year timeframe, we’re working to establish a roughly 40,000 square-foot facility that can provide access to world-class tools and draw international artists and inventors to Las Cruces. On the way there, we’re continually expanding the tools and programs that we offer, and we’re finding more and more ways to benefit the community in cooperation with other partners.”

For information about memberships, events and the programs offered at CC, visit www.crucescreatives.org.