LaunchSpace fundraiser in Orange this weekend

LaunchSpace is on the third floor of the Orange Innovation Center, 131 West Main St., Orange.

LaunchSpace is on the third floor of the Orange Innovation Center, 131 West Main St., Orange. FILE PHOTO

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 08-24-2023 5:41 PM

ORANGE – The member-based community workshop operating out of the Orange Innovation Center has two upcoming initiatives aimed at fostering the creativity of young people and the community at large.

LaunchSpace has planned an ice cream social fundraiser on Sunday, Aug. 27, to benefit its pottery program and construct a concrete foundation for its gas-fired kiln. The nonprofit organization is also preparing to start its Creative Sector Pathway Program, a hub for innovation and creativity, providing hands-on experiential education for those between 13 and 17 years old and interested in pursuing “the unique intersection of art, technology, and entrepreneurship.”

The ice cream fundraiser is set for 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Suite 342 at 131 West Main St. The frozen treats cost $20, $40 or $60, depending on the number of scoops. Attendees also get to keep the bowls.

Brianna Drohen, CEO of LaunchSpace, explained that throughout the summer, the organization’s members specializing in pottery have been crafting and donating ceramic bowls that attendees will pay to fill with ice cream.

The kiln was donated by retired Amherst potter Ann Kenworthy, but Drohen said money is needed to create a concrete foundation for its installation as well as for the permitting process and some structural support. Drohen estimates an additional $7,500 is needed on top of the roughly $1,500 already donated by the Potters All Clay Guild.

“Our pottery program is incredibly popular,” she said, adding that the addition of a gas-fired kiln is critical “to attract potters from all across the county and support the existing … potter community.”

Creative Sector Pathway Program

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The brainchild of Drohen and Cynthia “Sid” Nordstrom, LaunchSpace’s program and member director, this program is meant to help young people in the greater North Quabbin region explore the world of making and entrepreneurship as an alternative pathway to a career. Information sessions are scheduled for Suite 342 at 6 p.m. on Thursday and Aug. 31. Applications are due by Sept. 1.

Participants will meet from 3-5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursday for 20 weeks – Oct. 3 to Dec. 14 and then from January to April. The teens will train in LaunchSpace’s 13,000-square-foot facility and hone their skills in crafts such as pottery, 2D and 3D design, woodshop, leatherworking, textiles, jewelry, screenprinting, electronics, and digital fabrication.

“During the training and discovery phase, students work to master specific shops, are encouraged to pursue their passion, deepen their technique, and find their unique voice,” a statement reads. “Woven into each session are the practical skills needed to forge a path from idea to action including entrepreneurial thinking, developing a vision, recognizing opportunities, financial literacy, lean canvas, building a brand, and the importance of community.”

Drohen mentioned she and Nordstrom have been designing this program for about eight months and recruiting sponsors so it can be offered for free.She said the program has received donations from a few individuals as well as the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts, the United Way of North Central Massachusetts, the local nonprofit organization Valuing Our Children, and Walmart.

“It’s something that we’ve been wanting to do for a while, is have an out-of-school experience for local teens,” Drohen said, “and last summer we ran a summer teen program for four weeks and had a lot of success with it.”

Nordstrom, who worked as an independent contractor for LaunchSpace before being hired as program and member director in January, said this idea was born from meeting with people from the local school system and with teenagers taking workshops at LaunchSpace “and really just noticing where their interests are and where they want to take it.” She said teenagers were surprised by what they could accomplish in workshops and wanted to lean more into the possibilities.

“We’re all feeling real enthusiastic about it,” Nordstrom said, adding that this model allows high school students to design their own education in a hands-on way.

The program includes a badge and certificate system that provides students with apprenticeship opportunities to learn and work independently with their mentor outside of class time. Certification can be shared with employers or on college applications and will provide evidence that students have worked to develop their entrepreneurial mindset and have mastered important tool training.

To learn more, contact Nordstrom at sid@launchspace-orange.com. Teenagers can apply to the program at bit.ly/3QLM39W. To RSVP to the information sessions, visit bit.ly/44dYBdm.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.