Regional Artist Feature: Consuelo Poland

Give us a short bio.

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I was adopted from Guatemala at the age of 3 and grew up in Traverse City, MI. I went to Traverse City West and after graduating, I moved to Grand Rapids to attend Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University. I graduated from KCAD in the Spring of 2012 with a BFA in Functional Art. Upon graduation, with the help of Michigan works! I attended the GRCC Leslie E. Tassell Mtec Center for an 18 week Welding/Fabrication job training program. After completing the program I was nominated to go through the Latino Leadership Iniatitive Program through Ferris State University which helped me prepare for my move to Indianapolis, Indiana. I currently live in Indianapolis and work as the Artistic Foreman at Ruckus Makerspace,  serve as Executive Director of The Latinas Welding Guild, and am a Part time Welding Instructor at Ivy Tech

How did you get into welding and fabrication? 

I had one furniture project that I ended up welding together and really enjoyed the forgiveness of metal. After Kendall, I wasn't sure how I was going to use my BFA in Functional Art, so I was hoping to find some options to help boost my skills and opportunities for a career. Once I was accepted into the Welding/Fabricating program I was so excited but so scared as I was entering yet again, another field that was primarily dominated by men. Once I started in on it, I absolutely loved it because it was a challenge yet I was proving to myself and family that my size/gender has absolutely nothing to do with me learning this skill. 

Tell us a little about RUCKUS Makerspace. 

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I moved to Indianapolis in May 2016 which led me to my current adventure here at Ruckus Makerspace. Ruckus Makerspace, a co-working business incubator focused on supporting low-moderate income start ups and small businesses. The position helped me gain lots of experience putting together a Woodshop, Metal shop, and photography studio, and taught me about recruitment, community outreach, Human Resources, programming, event planning and much more. It opened a lot of doors and eventually helped me launch my (501c3) non-profit, The Latinas Welding Guild.

Through funding, we offer support to makers such as rent scholarships and free workshops focused on the business side of making. We're also able to offer Technical Assistance such as Legal Aid, Accounting, and Marketing assistance to those who financially qualify. Some of the funding has also allowed us to purchase tools and equipment that ultimately alleviates starts ups from financial burdens. 

We have a partnership with Purdue's School of Industrial Design that has secured equipment donations such as 3D Printers, a Laser Etcher, table top routers, and computers and drawing tablets. We have a second space that we are currently building out, which Purdue will also help supply more industrial size equipment to help makers who are scaling up their business and who are no longer in a Start Up mode. Ball State University College of Architecture and Planning has also started a partnership with us, so we have a couple of their Grad Students who work within our space on Ruckus projects but also on their own school work.  

I am constantly assessing the needs of the makers and the community around me to help put together relevant events and classes. 

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Tell us about The Latinas Welders Guild. What are you hoping to achieve with the The Latinas Welders Guild? Who else is involved?

I decided after 4 years that it was finally the right time and right place to try to turn my idea into a reality. I met with a Taft Law (who was working with Ruckus on several workshops) to help me determine what type of legal entity was a good fit for the Guild.

The process of filing my paper took me about a week to get acknowledgment from the state of Indiana, which is very fast compared to the standard time frame. The Guild is a network of women who come together with the common goal of learning how to weld but who also have the interest in building a sisterhood of community leaders and to help support communities of Latinos and women.

The Guild helps asses the needs of low to moderate income women who want to learn the skill as a creative outlet but also for a potential career path in fabrication or manufacturing. We're still in start up mode, so I've been chasing a lot of opportunities with bigger manufacturers but also trying to add as many educational elements to the program as I can.

My end goal would be to have an all Women's Welding School and Makerspace that will help empower women, but also offer legal services, language services, Domestic Violence Assistance and child care support.

Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking?

Back in the Spring of 2006, I had the opportunity to meet my biological family, and seeing the poverty they lived in really motivated me. The women in the country aren't given many options or choices to live their lives, and I wanted to find a way to make some change for those who couldn't help themselves.

After going through Welding School, I knew where my calling was and I've been so fortunate to have met so many great people who want to help me or who believe in the mission. If I don't push forward I'm not sure who would.

Do you have a piece of work that stands out in your mind as something you are exceptionally proud of or that is particularly important to you?

When I was still at GRCC Mtec Center, I was approached by the school. They wanted to sponsor me as an Artprize artist. I really didn't want to participate in the contest for many reasons, but after asking more about what a sponsorship would mean, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity.

I was offered a job at Dewys Manufacturing who, after hearing about the sponsorship/project, offered to help me with my Artprize entry too. Finally, when I was talking with Southwest Sandblasting Co., they also offered to sponsor me.

I drafted, designed and welded up my large cover picnic table/arbor which was then powder coated red. It stood 6ft down angled down 5ft tall, was 5ft by 5ft wide and out of "simplicity" came in 13 parts. It was a big undertaking but I was definitely happy for doing it because I learned so much from it. After making that piece, I saw how much support I was getting and thought about how many other women could also get that same help if they chased after it.

 Consuelo Poland's ArtPrize Entry

Consuelo Poland's ArtPrize Entry

What new projects do you have on the horizon?

Right now, I have a potential project with Honda for a 10-year anniversary piece that would be unveiled during their anniversary party and may have the potential to be shown at other Honda Facilities. I have other art projects that I'm trying to bring to the group but want to make sure we are being realistic with everything.

What do you want others outside of the creative workforce to understand about careers within the arts? 

Networking is very important.
I have no problem approaching big manufacturers and love a challenge. I constantly start conversations to see where it takes me and that's half the fun! You will never know who you'll meet and where those interactions will take you. Right now, I'm talking with people from the National Association of Manufacturers, Women in Manufacturing, Indiana Association of Manufacturers, and even the Civil Rights Commission

What are you passionate about besides your work?

Besides all the work I cram into my 5-day work week, I really enjoy talking about cultural differences. I'm passionate about educating those who might not understand cultural or gender differences. I've always used humor when it comes to uncomfortable interactions with people who make comments about my demeanor; my English, the ending of my name and even my preference on spicy foods. If I can help educate one person at a time, then I will do my part.
Also, I adopted an orange kitty who is now my feisty Diego, he keeps me on my toes.

I love playing games, event planning, going out with friends, going dancing, eating, and going to see live bands perform at nearby venues.

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What’s the best piece of advice you have heard and repeat to others?

Kill them with kindness.

Where can we learn more about you? 

I have a very basic website, coroflot.com/consuelopoland (which definitely needs to be reworked). 
RUCKUS: Indyruckus.org
FB: Ruckus Makerspace
IG: Ruckus Makerspace
FB: The Latinas Welding Guild (start up mode)
IG: The Latinas Welding Guild

Anything else we should know?

I'm going to take the Latinas Welding Guild to Guatemala. I'm hoping to have a journey-"woman" program coming soon! Also, might try to have more fundraisers in Grand Rapids!

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