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Open Works

Geography Maryland

Open Works is an engine of community, collaboration, and creativity. With a mission to make tools, technology, and the knowledge to use them accessible to all, Open Works operates Baltimore’s largest makerspace – a place where people ages eight and up can come to learn new skills and bring their creative ideas to life.

It is now the driving force of Makers Unite, a collaborative emergency manufacturing effort to combat the Covid-19 crisis in Maryland.

When the governor of Maryland declared an emergency shutdown on March 16, Open Works had already decided to close its doors in an effort to keep its community safe.

Over the next few days, as it became evident that personal protective equipment (PPE) was in short supply across the country, the Open Works team began to research how they could step up to meet demand. They had a wide network of crafters, access to tools, and unused space that they could put to work.

Through late-night calls to action, Open Works assembled a cohort of partners with 3-D printers who could produce protective face shields using an open source design. As Open Works facilitated the supply chain on both the supply and demand side — sourcing materials, instituting safety practices, and identifying health care providers to receive the PPE — while an informal network of individuals and institutions throughout Baltimore spent the weekend making face shields on their 3-D printers. By Wednesday, March 25, Open Works was packaging up these critical medical supplies and sending them out the door.

Executive Director Will Holman notes, “It’s amazing how people have pulled together to deal with this. People we’ve never even met have jumped in to participate in this volunteer network.”

So far, Open Works has sent more than 10,000 face shields to health care providers across Maryland. The USDA recently ordered 5,000 more for inspectors at meatpacking plants, after the President invoked the Defense Production Act to re-open these facilities.

In just a few short days, Open Works team members developed new protocols, built new supply chains, and launched an entirely new business model — all focused on supporting the health and vitality of its community. The organization has adapted in service of its community and its own survival.

Reinvestment Fund was honored to provide critical funding as part of a New Markets Tax Credits transaction to launch Open Works in 2017. From its earliest days, Open Works was poised to be an anchor for the Station North Arts & Entertainment District. Since its opening, it has become a vital community asset for people from across Baltimore to learn new skills, build new relationships, and launch new businesses. Today, Open Works is also a critical player in Maryland’s response to Covid-19 and, along with other makerspaces across the country, is catalyzing its community-based manufacturing capacity to respond to the urgent needs of people on the frontlines of the global pandemic.

Photo credit: Devon Rowland

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