Public Workshop founder and director Alex Gilliam calls the blue Schwinn adult tricycle known as the Mobile Maker Cart a "cabinet of curiosities," but then admits that that’s not quite right.
"Cabinet of possibilities. That’s better," he says of the one-of-a-kind mobile workshop conceived and assembled with the help of $180 and a team of 16-20 year-old Public Workshop
members at the University City Science Center
’s Department of Making + Doing
The cart’s young designers fashioned several surprising elements out of wood, including pedals, handlebars, a chain-guard and even a smartphone speaker. The Mobile Maker Cart has tools, storage space, an expandable workbench, a small battery-powered generator and a folding canopy, and it’s open to anyone in the neighborhoods it visits.
So far, these visits have included block parties in Powelton Village and Spruce Hill, and stops are coming up in November at various vacant lots on Lancaster Avenue in West Philadelphia. (Mobile Maker Cart activities are funded by ArtPlace America
"Humans are wired to copy one another," says Gilliam of the Public Workshop mission, and why the Cart, offering an opportunity to observe and participate in the creative process in public spaces, is a perfect example of it.
“We originally learn by touching and interacting with the world,” he adds, and we experience a remnant of this every time we absentmindedly put a pen in our mouth while thinking.
Youngsters might drive adults crazy with time-honored toddler activities such as banging pots and pans together, but "that is their way -- and originally your way -- of understanding what a pan is, and what acoustics are," he insists. Once we grow up, not everyone feels like an artist, writer, director, architect or designer. But given the opportunity, "everyone likes to build," and hands-on activities spark "a chemically different process" than sitting in a meeting or completing paperwork.
Whether it’s a shovel, saw or a sledgehammer, the chance to connect with others over a physical task releases endorphins, which foster a sense of teamwork and inclusion, a sharpened memory, and the tenacity needed to get things done, Gilliam continues.
Public space is "the original Internet," he adds, where we connect, learn and collaborate in the way we really evolved to. "People are tired of talking about stuff, they just want to do…We’re pushing all those buttons."
When Mobile Maker Cart visitors are impressed by the gear onboard, and learn that, for example, an item was made by a sixteen-year-old girl, "it changes the conversation very quickly. People think, if a teenager can do it, maybe so can I."
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Alex Gilliam, The Public Workshop