John Waldron – founder of the Makeway Lab

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John Waldron is an artist, curator and co-director of Blue Sky View, a Sunshine Coast based company that develops valued, interesting and engaging projects, exhibitions and events for community, government and the private sector.

For over twenty years John worked as an education officer and gallery director for government and corporation, managing innovative facilities and programs. John has delivered a range of public art projects and curated many social history and visual art exhibitions some of which have toured throughout the country and presented at regional, state and national museums.

John is an active member of the arts and heritage sector. He is currently Chair of Museum & Gallery Service Queensland and Museums Australia Queensland; a Board member for The Old Ambulance Station, Nambour; and member of FabLab International.

In 2013 John was nominated a Cultural Champion and added to the Cultural Champions Wall of Fame for his contribution to the Queensland arts and culture sector.

Through Queensland State Government funding, Blue Sky View is developing the Makeway Lab, a ‘makerspace’ for hospitals and people in need, which will provide digital maker programs to assist patient health and healing and the wellbeing of individuals and communities.

With the view that we feel alive and valued when we can make and provide things, the Makeway Lab program will improve the hospital experience for patients and motivate their rehabilitation and wellbeing.

Can you tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?

Makeway Lab – The Makeway Lab is a arts and health initiative that provides patient access to innovative technology and participatory programs to improve their health and well being.

The Hospital Makerspace is a mobile facility equipped with digital design and fabrication technology such as 3D printers, digital scanners and cutters that a participant can interact with, to learn and create interesting things.

An example of social innovation, ultimately the Makeway Lab can deliver programs for a range of patient groups, including people dealing with dialysis, mental health, oncology and rehabilitation patients; children and their families and others.

The Makeway Lab

Pilot – The Makeway Lab has been awarded funding by the Queensland Government to develop the hospital program and trial and research the activities to gauge their benefit for patients and the hospital community.

The trial is to be delivered in partnership with a south east Queensland Hospital and see the development of the mobile Makeway Lab, an innovative trolley containing the digital tools and equipment required to deliver the program. The trolley can be moved alongside an individual or to a ward or unit so that that a group can learn, design and make things together.

All components of the program have been developed through consultation with patients, hospital staff, healthcare and university professional and digital fabrication experts.

Rationale: For patients – The Makeway Lab aims to motivate and empower patients; encourage participation; rehabilitation and healing; improve pain management and potentially re-skill people to build and renew their enthusiasm for life.

With the view that we feel alive and valued when we can make and provide things, the Makeway Lab program will improve the hospital experience for patients and motivate their rehabilitation and wellbeing.

For hospitals – The Makeway program accounts for the mental, social and physical health of patients, providing hospitals an innovative holistic service.

Can you please explain your business model for us?

Creativity is one of the few things that we have in common. Through shared creative experiences we can learn and connect and together strive to make a difference for individuals and communities.

With long-term experience in revealing the stories of people, places and events, Blue Sky View excels in the development and delivery of interesting and engaging projects, exhibitions and events.

Blue Sky View works to build partnerships and collaborations in order to increase a project’s potential and the opportunities for people and communities to ensure the experience is lasting and valued.

What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next year?

The Spiral Makeway Lab Residency.

The Makeway Lab has been designed and developed on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. Recently the Makeway Lab was awarded Queensland Government funding to develop an art and health program and trial and research the activities to gauge their benefit and opportunities for expansion.

In April 16 the trial commenced with Spiral Nambour. Spiral is a not-for-profit organisation who provide an environment of self-determination for people with multiple disabilities on the Sunshine Coast. Spiral’s programs aim to help people build capacity, link into their communities, access leisure and recreational interests, learning and vocational opportunities to become valued members of their communities.

The Makeway Lab Residency (to October 2016) aims to enhance Spiral’s programs and include both creative and design for health applications. The Residency will lead to a showcase exhibition as part of the Horizon Arts Festival and include a Sensory Space featuring the participants work.

How do you make your ideas happen?

By giving things a go, not being afraid to make mistakes, having laugh and collaborating with creative and like minded people.

What role have mentors played in your business life?

Not to limit yourself. To trust your ability, be inquisitive, experiment and keep learning.

What does your typical day look like?

I don’t have a typical work day however the days that I enjoy the most are working at home, which is located in a remanent rainforest setting, moving back and forth from my office to my studio working on a meaningful projects and making art. At present I’m working on a series of 3D printed artworks for a new media exhibition at Caloundra Regional Gallery in July.

Other days I’m developing and installing exhibitions for museums and galleries or working on public art projects with talented artists.

Some days can be back-to-back meetings and while not fun, are an important part of  our business.

What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?

Sustaining a business in the arts and cultural sector in Australia is a real challenge. We are fortunate that we can work across the creative and heritage arts sectors and are able to diversify into the arts and health sector.

What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?

At least have a portion of your business that is about giving back to the community. Support a charity, do some volunteering, or partner with a not for profit.

What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?

Business, no matter how small or large needs to step-up and set an example, showing how we can best look after each other and act on behalf of the planet. We can’t expect that government or others are going to do the job. There are just too many people in need and the cultural and environmental challenges so significant, that we can’t simply turn a blind eye.

Is there a particular charity or social enterprise you support?

Blue Sky View is working with an energetic team of volunteers who are transforming The Old Ambulance Station, Nambour into a space for creative enterprise. The AMBO is a unique model that is bringing creatives together to collaborate and build their businesses in an affordable and accessible space.

Every Wednesday the Makeway Lab is being trailed at Spiral and together with the staff we are developing interesting and useful applications for the digital design and fabrication facility. These activities range from creative to design for health applications that is making a change for the individuals and Spiral community.

Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?

The Makeway Lab was inspired by my brother who is a dialysis patient. I worked out that he spends 22 working weeks a year, confined to a chair receiving his treatment. One day I hope to take the Makeway Lab to a Dialysis Unit and work with young patients and give them the opportunity to learn digital design and fabrication skills. Skills that might just improve their wellbeing and lead them to a career path.

We are looking for people in the hospital and healthcare sectors that are interested in trailing the participatory program and university students to help deliver and research the program and benefits.

Social media support is an area that we need help with, to help broadcast the project and its outcomes.

We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc., what would it be?

What social media platforms should I be dedicating my limited time to?

What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?

Any bar watching my footy team the Roosters win a game, which has been a rare occasion of late, and any restaurant having a laugh with family and friends.


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