It was once a tired, old warehouse in the industrial part of Sparks. But two years ago, a creative idea by local artists helped breathe new life into the huge, vacant building on Icehouse Avenue. Today it is called The Generator, and it attracts a diverse group from all walks of life. The list includes artists, painters, sculptures, wood workers, mechanics, inventors and hobbyists who create and display their favorite craft. And The Generator’s moto is simple: “Help good artists become great, help decent artists become good and introduce everyone to the joy of creativity.”
The Generator has 34,000 square feet of art space open to anyone who wants to build something, from small projects to big ones. Best of all, it’s free. The place gives artists a chance to start and complete desired projects and assignments without the hassles and expenses of garage space, tools and supervision.
“The Generator is the only free collaborative makerspace for artists and builders in the United States,” said Bill Horner, operations manager for The Generator. “Here we combine skills from other artists to teach, learn and help others who lack the skills but have the desire to learn.”
First, an artist or builder presents an idea for a project. Once approved by a Generator instructor, the artist is given space, tools and supervision to complete the task. Artists can work in a wood or metal shop, art gallery or auto shop. There’s even a laser cutter, 3-D printer and a sewing room. The center uses volunteers and donations to operate. Tools are donated or provided by the artists.
The Generator is filled with a variety of ongoing projects and creations. Two years ago someone made mahogany canoes from scratch. A team of builders from Colorado has started work on a floating dock for the Sparks Marina. A sculptor from Carson City makes bronze and ceramic faces. But the biggest array of art activity at The Generator happens during the summer months in preparation for the annual Burning Man festival. Last summer more than a dozen Burning Man projects were designed at The Generator. In fact, the center draws artists from around the world for the event. A team of six engineers from Germany found the perfect setup for tools, space and resources to construct a table and chair for an Alice in Wonderland stage.
Jeremy Evans, an artist and volunteer instructor, has been creating and supervising art projects since The Generator opened. He recently completed the Funnel of Creation for Burning Man. He’s now polishing up his toy in preparation for an open house at The Generator on Friday. He says that for him
The Generator is more than just a place to make things and mingle with other artists. He says that without this facility he, along with most of the other artists and builders here, would have a lot of trouble completing these types of projects.
“Most places, such as a garage, would charge me for the space and tools. The type of projects I do would end up costing several thousand dollars, so this is a great resource for our community,” Evans said.
The space attracts younger visitors as well. Evans’ son, Brandon, 13, also likes to tag along.
“I helped paint the walls of the inside building. I like the technical stuff like making things that can be cut by the laser for 3-D animation files,” he said.
The building also features areas for yoga, dance, music and knitting.
The Generator also has made plans to add equipment for a space to do sheet metal work. But for now, Horner is busy setting up for Friday’s open house.
“We really want to get away from that idea that this is mostly just Burning Man artists,” he said. “This is for any one. We want to encourage that any type of artist is welcome here.”
Note: The Generator open house and gallery event will be held on Friday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. at 240 Icehouse Ave. in Sparks. Artists and makers from The Generator and from the larger local arts community will be displaying their work, showcasing the capabilities of the facility and sharing their skills.