Talk to any Brooklyn parent and they’ll tell you that kids these days aren’t just finger-painting or barely squeaking out “Hot Cross Buns” on the recorder—au contraire! They’re probably already better at HTML than you, thanks to a major influx in tech programs for especially career-curious kiddos. Among them is a weekend-long gathering every January called the Inventgenuity Festival, now in its fifth year, which somehow gets kids as young as seven constructing automatons, creating music videos out of GIFs, or building a redesign of Leonardo da Vinci’s Cam Hammer to include sound, all with the help of local teaching artists, scientists, designers and those that can be defined by the all-inclusive term “makers.”
Once held at the Invisible Dog Art Center in Cobble Hill, the fest now has a permanent home in its own building next door. “After two years of seeing the community’s enthusiastic embrace of the Festival, Danny and I decided the time was right to start the Beam Center,” says Brian Cohen, referring to his cofounder Danny Kahn. Besides the Inventgenuity Festival, the nonprofit also hosts after-school classes, a summer camp, an internship program and three-month residencies that allow artists to showcase their work in the 100-square-foot storefront in exchange for partial rent and time spent teaching workshops. They’ve also started BeamWorks, a partnership with the NYC Department of Education that prepares teens for a future in which “maker” just might be a viable career option.