Community-driven social center looking to provide space for creativity at a low cost


Mary Newman

Flyover Social Center, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, in Carbondale, the center is a creative space for the community. (Mary Newman | @MaryNewmanDE)

By Jeremy Brown , Staff Writer

Going against money-driven business models, The Flyover Social Center in Carbondale creates a space for free-thinking for learning’s sake at a low cost.

The space can be used for anyone to host events, meetings, weekly activities or live performances at a comfortable cost.

Thomas Finkenkeller, 27, from St. Louis, and Nick Smaligo, 34, from Carbondale, are two of the many keyholders that help run the Flyover.


Finkenkeller and Smaligo use the term keyholders instead of managers, because no specific person owns the Flyover.

“It’s more of a stewardship than ownership,” Finkenkeller said. “We’re all taking care of the space together, and we have been for the past three years.”

The Flyover charges $10 per hour, or if those using the center cannot pay upfront, money donations can be accepted during an event instead.

The rate is a suggestion more than a rule, Smaligo said. This method covers their costs.

“Usually groups will pass the hat around,” he said.

The Flyover has no strong revenue pull and the keyholders don’t get a paycheck.

The purpose of the Flyover, Finkenkeller said, is to provide an inexpensive place for citizens of Carbondale to come together and create unique events and activities.


An example of this is the Flyover’s monthly reading series, the first of which was Tuesday, with the topic “Is Democracy Really What We Want?”

The reading series is what Smaligo hopes will turn the Flyover into a lively space for intellectual thinking and bring individuals interested in discussing social issues.

“It’s part of an attempt to create a space where people can reflect about the problems of our time,” Smaligo said. “A space outside the constraints of careers, grades and all the rest of it.”

Smaligo said one problem with education today is that in many cases learning is just used for career-building.

“I think that can prevent real, free thinking from occurring,” Smaligo said. “So we’re trying to do things that stimulate debate.”

Flyover’s community outreach also extends to its tool library, where people can check out tools for projects that they need to build.

Tools include circular saws, power drills, hammers, wrenches, nails, screws, screwdrivers and other hardware.

Anyone who wants to check out a tool just has to show proof that they live in the Carbondale area.

“A lot of people have that one friend that has all of these tools that their friends use,” Finkenkeller said. “We are trying to be the garage that everyone can use.”

In the past year, the Flyover has made 850 tool loans to more than 150 people.

Finkenkeller said the trust they build with people is why the tool library’s free rentals work.

When people don’t feel trusted, Smaligo said, it breeds resentment.

“There’s always a risk involved with anything,” Smaligo said. “And it’s worth the risk to trust people.”

Staff writer Jeremy Brown can be reached at j[email protected] or on Twitter @JeremyBrown_DE.

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