About U-MAKE

The Idea and Making of...

Musings by Linda Larkey

How did U-MAKE get its start? Well, it was because area kite makers missed having a regional event while MAKR was reorganizing. In June 2010, at Kites Over Grinnell, three attendees, Barbara Meyer, Ed Grys, and myself, started talking about that huge, aching void.

For us a Kite Making Retreat is more than making kites — it is the friendships and idea exchange. It is what makes us keep going even when we have 5 partial projects from previous years that we know we will never finish.

I suggested Des Moines, IA as a new location, in part because of the number of Kitemakers who attend Iowa area events like Color The Wind, Clear Lake and Kites Over Grinnell. Yes, the other part is that Des Moines is an easy 3 hour drive for me.

After much research, we held the first Upper Midwest Area Kitemaking Retreat at the West Des Moines Marriott in March of 2011.  The following year, due to remodeling at the Marriott, we moved U-MAKE to January in 2012. 

And in 2013, the Marriott let us know their class room charges would nearly double. After much searching for an alternate location in Des Moines, we widened the search, this time looking at the home locations of those attending U-MAKE. Over half of those attending drove right past Taft Campus, the location of MAKR.  A call to Taft revealed they had only one weekend available… the weekend we wanted for U-MAKE 2013!

Deciding that HAD to be a sign it was meant to be, we signed contracts to return kites to Taft. http://www.niu.edu/taft/.

Located just outside the city of Oregon, Illinois, the Taft Campus has a rich history. During the summer of 1898, the noted American sculptor Lorado Taft and a small group of artists, architects and scholars came to the estate of Wallace Heckman, an idyllic property located on a wooded bluff overlooking the Rock River.

They established a summer retreat as a place to work, exchange ideas and socialize in peaceful isolation away from the distracting pressures and oppressive summer heat of the city. This enclave became known as the Eagle’s Nest Art Colony and flourished until the death of its last original member in 1942.

In 1951, Northern Illinois University acquired a portion of the Heckman estate including heavily wooded areas, open fields, ravines and the site of the original art colony. Named in honor of Lorado Taft, today the 141-acre campus has become the university’s outdoor education and conference center.

For the past five decades, thousands of participants have come to the Taft Campus to teach and learn in the outdoors and to experience the vitality and sense of renewal started by Lorado Taft in 1898. You are invited to be part of it!

This forces U-MAKE to grow much faster than we expected our retreat to grow, and our budget will be limited in the first few years, but we hope to expand in the future to bring in presenters and kiters the Midwest doesn't always get to meet.  That said, we have some of the BEST Kitemakers here in the Midwest, and we hope you support us this year, and in years to come.

Thanks, and hope to see you the first weekend of March at the Lorado Taft Campus!

Linda Larkey   airhead@kc.rr.com

Ed Grys   ejgrys@gmail.com