The Betty Brinn Children’s Museum has opened a new space in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood to house its hands-on learning makerspace initiatives and exhibit fabrication lab.
The new Brinn Labs, at 433 E. Stewart St., includes a makerspace that will host classes for teens and adults, professional development training for teachers, and will be the headquarters for Maker Faire Milwaukee, an annual event co-hosted by the museum and arts organization Milwaukee Makerspace.
The new space, which is about 19,000 square feet, also includes a fabrication shop, where museum staff produce exhibits. The museum has been renting temporary space for its maker programs until now.
“Our Maker Initiatives highlight the growing impact of making on education at all levels and address the skills that children and young people will need to live, work and learn in a rapidly changing global society,” said Fern Shupeck, executive director of the museum, in a news release. “Along with its dramatic influence on education, making is also addressing the skills gap in workforce training, job creation and economic development, and these are key issues for Milwaukee.”
The museum has made a push over the last five years to promote the “maker movement,” an initiative that integrates STEM fields, hands-on learning and DIY culture.
“The maker movement is a global community, so we wanted to bring it to Milwaukee,” said Carrie Wettstein, chief operating officer of Betty Brinn Children’s Museum.
That effort has included the development of a makerspace within the Betty Brinn Museum, teacher training programs, field trips, as well as research in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education around maker education. Last year, the museum became a Google “making spaces hub,” which has the museum working with area schools to integrate maker education into their classrooms.
Those programs will now be housed at Brinn Labs.
Wettstein said the museum has established itself as a leader in the maker movement nationally, and is filling an important need for hands-on education opportunities.
“It is really engaging kids in the STEM subjects, it’s renewing interest in vocational education, it’s showcasing STEM careers,” she said. “We’re ready now to expand partnerships with business and government and philanthropy to address these issues. We feel we’ve hit a critical mass and have a lot to offer to this conversation.”
Also housed at Brinn Labs is the museum’s exhibit development operations. The museum creates exhibits for its own facility as well as museums nationally. It also works with major brands, including Harley-Davidson, Major League Baseball and Hasbro, to develop traveling exhibits.
Revenue generated from its exhibit sales and rental program supports much of its community outreach efforts, Wettstein said.
“The exhibit sales and rent program really has grown a lot and it’s really critical for how we operate,” she said.
Classes at Brinn Labs will begin in February and a free open house event for the public will be held from 3-8 p.m. on March 1.