Asheville, North Carolina continues to impress me. I’ve been working at Open Space AVL and its transformation has been amazing since I was last here in December. Just half a year ago the building has been transformed from a bombed out, defunct preschool into a clean and transforming maker-space. There is still a long way to go, but considering that all of the professional construction, electric work, and beautification has been done as a labor of love, shows power of an impassioned community.
Open Space AVL gives a roof to dozens of groups and teams that want to have a space to meet but don’t either have the resources or it is impractical for them to rent on their own. Each group is is so excited about their work that the other clubs and teams can’t help but blend together. Community is created. As I’ve said countless times to my students, “excellence is infectious” and that idea is expressed here in the fresh paint that covers the walls, the neatly stacked robotic parts or the quick, makeshift meeting rooms that are put together.
Steve Cooperman, my long time friend and project manager (I’m sure he’d deny that title), says “The space determines the use. We waited for the space to tell us what to do with it, and the people that show up. Even though they’re connected, co-working and co-learning, there’s people at different stages of their learning journey, with different ideas of what they wanted to work on.”
Open Space AVL’s own stated self-description is dense with buzz words: “Synergy from diversity + open space: We have a diverse eco-system in terms of interests, activities, fields, ages, backgrounds, etc., and operate based on the principles of open space and self -organization, resulting in powerful ‘collisions,’ cross-fertilization, and synergies.” But for me, I see it as two simple words: passion and community.