Meet the Maker: Amanda Willshire
The Scott Family Amazeum's Maker in Residence Program introduces talented, creative makers to Northwest Arkansas and the creative culture that already exists in the region. Makers from across the nation with unique skills, visions, and mindsets find a home at the Amazeum where they become part of the family. Amanda Willshire, the latest Amazeum Maker in Residence, moved in and got to work with the team who supported her with time, talent and tools as she worked on a piece of interactive public art.
Unlike previous Makers in Residence, Amanda already established herself in Bentonville’s creative ethos. She is the creative behind Monarch and Dandelions in Orchard’s Park, and Sassy the Sasquatch emerging from Park Springs Park at the corner of Northwest A Street and Tiger Boulevard along with other works along the Razorback Greenway.
Amanda's introduction to Bentonville follows a familiar storyline. "I was doing beer bottle cap art for breweries in Colorado," Amanda recalls. One of the breweries she was working with came to Bentonville to check out the trails. "On their visit, they shared some of the work I’d been doing in the community art space in Colorado and there was some overlap with what was happening in Bentonville," Amanda said. An introduction to the Walton Family Foundation and Bentonville city officials lead to an opportunity to make public art in the city. Bikes, craft beer, an idea and a maker mindset pretty much guarantee inclusion in the maker ecosystem in Northwest Arkansas.
Amanda's residency coincided with Tinkerfest adding a new dimension to the community experience at the annual event celebrating creativity and the integration of science, technology, engineering, art and math into everyday life. Tinkerfest introduces Northwest Arkansans to the larger Maker Movement, a national community of creative people doing creative things using their own skills in collaboration with others to make something with their hands.
A maker is someone who comes up with an idea and follows through. Anyone can be a maker. - Amanda Willshire.
"The Maker Movement, I know it can be sometimes confusing as to what that is," Amazeum Executive Director Sam Dean said. "One of the things I heard from Dale Dougherty, the creator of Make magazine, is that we’re all makers. We’re all hardwired to work with our hands.” Thanks to the support of the Walton Family Foundation, the Maker in Residency Program at the Amazeum connects makers and tinkerers with the resources and people to bring ideas to life and enhance the quality of life for the community and the makers themselves. The program gives the community the opportunity to experience firsthand the process and product of making and places the Amazeum at the center of a growing Maker Ecosystem in the region.
Amanda is working on a new sculpture for the Amazeum called the Incredible Electric Technicolor Mockingbird. At 11 feet tall, 15 feet long, and 8 feet wide, Mockingbird is already impressive. Amanda's concept of adding interactive technology to the mockingbird, gives the piece a whole new personality. To support the development of this technological aspect of the piece the Amazeum introduced Amanda to Fayetteville maker, Eugene Sargent. "Eugene’s been helping out with the technology to make the worms in the sculpture pick up people's voices and mock them back," Amanda said. The Mockingbird is equipped with state-of-the-art "mock-back" technology that makes for an interactive experience. The community will be able to interact with the Incredible Electric Technicolor Mockingbird once installed at the Amazeum on December 15. (See Amanda testing the "mock-back" capabilities in the video below).
"I feel like I’m surrounded by geniuses," Amanda said during her time working in the Amazeum Fabrication shop. "Everybody’s creativity is stunning. It means a lot to me to be a part of the [Maker in Residence Program]. I feel honored to be surrounded by so many knowledgeable people and I hope to continue working with them in the future."
Amanda's residency at the Amazeum is a testament to the creative power when makers are connected to the human and capital resources they need to bring an idea to life.