Skillshare events help locals expand their horizons 

click to enlarge GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell

Inside the gate to the entrance of Concrete Couch sits a trampoline. Plaited bicycle inner tubes hand-tied to a frame comprise the jumping surface, and the worn dirt around it speaks to heavy use. This is the kind of fun project many people would love to create, but don't know how to begin.

Enter the Second Saturday Skillshare (SSSkillshare) at Concrete Couch. SSSkillshare events have been going on for about two years, according to Ruthie Markwardt, the organization's community coordinator.

"The idea is to create a space to learn skills in the arts, construction, sustainability, and more," says Markwardt. "Any skill people might have, if they're willing to share, we'll provide a space for it."

SSSkillshare is one of a few such programs around the region — the Manitou Art Center hosts a weekly version. These free programs have helped people learn a broad and eclectic range of crafting methods.

"It can be really burly stuff like welding, or more decorative, like stained glass," explains Markwardt. "Our youngest presenter was a 7-year-old who taught folks how to make Sculpey superhero dolls."

Attendance has steadily increased over the program's run, from about 20 participants each month to 40. Skills shared include various forms of visual art, construction, cooking, sustainability and gardening. May's SSSkillshare participants learned how to repair and maintain bikes, and how to make art from bike parts.

For those unfamiliar, Concrete Couch is a 501(c)3 arts organization (housed in an Independent-owned building) dedicated to bringing people together to create art, build community and garden a little.

"Building community through creative projects, fixing it up and beautifying it makes the community a lot more fun and gives it personality," says Markwardt.

Along the way, she says people find out a little about themselves. "We like to show people who might not consider themselves designers or constructors that they do have those skills."


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