Planting Seeds: Celebrating The Bean Path's Past & Future with Kanika Welch
Celebrating four years this October, The Bean Path provides technical advice and guidance to individuals of all ages and small businesses.
"We're looking at ways to have young people in this space to engage with different mediums and learn new skills, to enhance the ones they already have," Kanika Welch said. "It's really exciting."
As Interim Executive Director of The Bean Path, Kanika Welch is helping to grow roots in Jackson's Tech District alongside Founder Dr. Nashlie Sephus and their talented staff. The 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, which will celebrate its 4th Anniversary on October 8th, provides technical advice and guidance to individuals of all ages and small businesses. One of the newest ways they're accomplishing this is with the scaled-out Makerspace, a think tank playground for community workshops and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math) -inspired programming.
"Our Makerspace is where we have different types of equipment for 'makers,' and that can look like several different things," Welch said. "There's everything from Boss laser cutters, where you can input a design, and it will engrave it on a piece of wood. We have our 3D printers and a heat press. We also have sewing, embroidery, and monogramming machines."
The technology readily available is more than the sum of its parts. Dr. Sephus, who formerly led the Amazon Visual Search team and is the Applied Science manager for Amazon Artificial Intelligence (AI), envisions The Bean Path as the hub that cultivates and unites talented makers in Jackson and throughout the state. For its launch, the Makerspace membership model is structured for affordability and accessibility so that individuals may even elect to teach courses in exchange for time in the workshop.
"The idea is that you would come and train on one of the machines, like the laser cutter or the CNS router, and in turn, you would assist us when we have certain events as a host instructor," Welch said. "We recently had our first practice class with a local visual artist that was trained on the Boss laser cutter. He was able to get a wood engraving of one of his designs, and that was really cool to experience."
As a native Jacksonian, educator, and award-winning published author, Welch imagines The Bean Path as a space where she can personally give back and nourish the community that's given her so much, especially regarding the city's youth.
"I want us to be anchored here, where young people come and know that they can create and learn in a safe space," Welch said. "That they don't have to have any fear or anxiety around being the 'smart' kid. We're bringing in tech experts to teach, and a lot of them are African-American. So our young people can see someone who looks like them, who's an architect, or fashion designer, or computer engineer."
"I like to think about it in terms of not being afraid to dream," Welch continues, "and to serve as the place for that in our community is going to be amazing. When the world thinks 'tech,' they'll no longer think just of Denver, Colorado, or Utah. They'll also think of Jackson, Mississippi. That's our big vision."
The Bean Path continues to look for ways to sow its seeds, and local makers are encouraged to collaborate and reach out through their website for volunteering or donations. "Our in-kind donations are just as important to us if there's a skill you're an expert in and would love to teach," Welch said. "We want to be the hub where we're hosting classes important to community members, where they can be invested and receive training."