Maker City LA: Sharon Ann Lee
If you work as a freelance creative, you know how difficult it can be to find a place to work where you find chemistry and cohesion. There has been a mini boom in Los Angeles as of late to fill this need in the city. More and more co-working spaces are popping up and each has their own strengths and advantages. Sharon Ann Lee, is a culture analyst and has lived in Los Angeles since she was five years old. She is most often enlisted by companies to help them understand cultural trends, youth culture and brand strategy. Supporting the creative community has been a long-standing passion of hers. As Co-Creator of Maker City LA, Sharon and project partner Ava Bromberg, bring a host of tools together in one place.
Coming out of university many creatives find themselves with a lot of skills and talent to create but lack cost efficient access to the professional tools needed to continue their study or create their own work. Sharon explains, “This means they have to try and use the facilities at their jobs, which may not always be allowed, or in some cases, they end up putting their passion to the side all together. You loose a ton of talented people that are inspired to create upon leaving school because all their tools are ripped away from them. There needs to be a solution to that problem.”
Sharon, makes the point that Los Angeles currently harbors the most creative professionals than any other city. The sprawl of the city however, makes it unclear where the center is.The facility offers, a event space, media lab, fabrication lab, textile studio, and commercial kitchen studio. She intends for Maker City LA to be one of those creative hot beds where creatives can not only connect, but collaborate.
At CultureBrain, the art studio/ think tank, Sharon develops content and ideas that impact and reflect what is going on in the world of art and culture. With the opening of Maker City LA, CultureBrain will further develop the academy side of its offering as well as host other programming in the Maker City LA space. In addition to the lack of accessible tools, there is also a gap in institutional education. This is where CultureBrain Academy steps in to offer classes and facilitate conversations that continue educate and inspire creatives after, or as supplement to, their formal education.
As a literature major at Claremont McKenna College, Sharon remembers seeing prominent public figures and thinkers speak at The Athenaeum, a dinning and lecture hall for students and faculty on campus, ” Before idea conferences like TED, for me, there was “The Ath.” So, in some way I want to recreate that in my space.”
There were already some components of this idea in Los Angeles. Sharon recognized this but didn’t see them in one place. Maker City LA, along with Magic Box, and LA Mart, comprise The REEF, a full service creative habitat in Downtown Los Angeles.With The REEF there is now a place to design, prototype, and even market your work in one place. You can also learn new skills as well as maintain and improve the ones you already have via the CultureBrain Academy. “I think what makes Maker City LA truly different is that cross pollination between creative communities is baked into the concept and design of the space. While most spaces are industry silos, here we have the film maker next to the chef next to the fashion tech designer next to the artist. I think being exposed to other people’s creative process is so necessary to our own creative practice.”
Sharon is at the center of a unique project that is helping to support the creative community here in Los Angeles. The climate of the city is opportune as well. In 2013 the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization published their annual report expressing ” an urgent need to find new development pathways that encourage creativity and innovation in the pursuit of inclusive, equitable and sustainable growth and development.” The report details the importance of the creative industries on global solutions to wealth, hunger, and much more.
Otis College also published a report in February of 2014 detailing the growth of Los Angeles’ creative economy and its contribution to the state gross domestic product. The importance of places like Maker City LA and the work that Sharon is doing is becoming increasingly important, not only for economic reasons, but social ones as well.
In a time when jobs are continuing to be turned over to technology, innovation and creative are one area where we still see thriving growth. Innovation and ideas have always been America’s greatest export as well. Only in a open democratic society can creativity blossom and new ideas flourish. Maker City LA is one example of an infrastructure that supports those ideas and the products they yield.
As of late 2013 Maker City LA has opened its doors with a soft launch, hosting events and accepting tenants to office and co-work spaces. Through the rest of 2014 additional programming and classes will continue to be developed. The next major event open to the public will be Artisanal LA on April 26th and 27th. Every creative in Los Angeles should pass by the space, see what is going on, and hopefully bump in to other creatives.
How can you be involved? Come by the space and support the events. Bring new audiences and people to learn about the offerings and community. You can reach Sharon on Twitter @culturebrain, and sign up for upcoming classes and events at www.culture-brain.com.
Sharon is pictured in the header image wearing a couture paper hat made in her art studio. It is an homage to one of her favorite style icons, Isabella Blow, who wore many Phillip Treacy hats. “I have a bit of a paper art obsession so I’ve been making paper versions of some of the Blow/Treacy collaborations.”