Arizona colleges offer creative spaces for women, trans and femme individuals

The program encourages equitable creativity at monthly WTF Makers Nights

The MKRspace at Hayden Library is hosting its second WTF Maker Night of the year on March 1, providing an opportunity for female-presenting individuals to become active members of creative environments.

WTF stands for women, trans and femme which, according to, refers to anyone who has a gender identity that leans toward femininity. The monthly maker nights are hosted by Northern Arizona University, University of Arizona and ASU on the first Thursday of every month.

The event is free, and all MKRspace equipment will be available to use unless it is reserved ahead of time. This means attendees will have access to creative tools including a button maker, sewing station, audio and video recording studio, 3D printers, computers equipped with the full Adobe Suite, soldering tools, Arduinos, Raspberry Pis and a vinyl cutter.

Amanda Meeks, the creator of WTF Makers Nights at NAU, where the event originated in the spring semester of 2017, said she was inspired by a similar event held at a bicycle shop where she worked.

“There’s a huge gap in maker culture and in the STEM and art fields in terms of gender diversity,” Meeks said. “There are a lot more male people and masculine-identified people in those fields, and so I really wanted to have an intentional space for women, but I wanted that space to also be intentionally inclusive of all women, including femme-identified people, non-binary people and trans people.”

Maker culture is a broad term used to describe any and all creative spaces where something is being produced, whether related to STEM or the arts.

Victor Surovec, the MKRspace program coordinator for ASU, said it’s important to build creative environments that are welcoming to all to help fix a lack of diversity within these spaces.

“I think that there’s a whole missing skill set and perspective out there on making,” he said.

Meeks created the hashtag #AZMakersWTF for attendees to use on Twitter and Instagram to share their ideas and projects.

“It’s easier to learn new things or to sit down and make things, just try something, when you have a supportive group of people around you, and when you are in a space where there aren’t any assumptions about your skill level, your gender, your presentation of gender etc.,” Meeks said.

The WTF Makers Nights are not intended for only students whose majors deal with STEM or the arts — the events are open to any and all students who want to learn a new skill. 

Those who don't have experience with a particular piece of equipment can sign-up online for a consultation when reserving the MKRspace, Surovec said.

Ayleen Barajas-Chavez, an NAU student studying psychology and women’s, gender and ethnic studies who identifies as non-binary, attends the NAU WTF Makers Nights regularly.

Barajas-Chavez spent their first night making pillows with cat faces on them, which they said inspired a passion for embroidery and needlework.

“There was no judgments if you didn’t know how to do something,” Barajas-Chavez said. “Everybody just kind of shared skills among each other.”

Cassandra Price, an NAU student studying computer sciences, also attends the events regularly.  She said she and Barajas-Chavez were introduced to the femme-friendly maker space when a club they were both members of, Associated Students for Women’s Issues, attended one of the events.

“The computer science world is a lonely place for women and femme-identifying people,” Price said. “So beginning to go there and just hanging out with people in sort of the same discipline and situation was very grounding.”

ASU was the last of the three schools to start hosting WTF Makers Nights events, Surovec said. However, a vacancy in a leadership position at the MKRspace left ASU without an event for a number of months last year, he said. The first ASU-held event of 2018 was in February, but no one attended.

Despite the lack of turnout in February, the MKRspace is optimistic about the upcoming WTF Makers Nights and they will continue to promote them throughout the semester.

“When students have an idea, that idea should be worked on,” Surovec said. “If you don’t have access to the tools to make those ideas a reality, they don’t ever become a reality and they die … and they shouldn’t."

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified MKRspace as an intercollegiate group – while WTF Makers Nights are held at different colleges in Arizona, the space is only at ASU. Additionally, while students can sign up for consultations online they cannot take classes online as was previously reported. The article has been updated to reflect these changes.

Reach the reporter at or follow @MelissaARobbins on Twitter.

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