World Cafes: Conversations with Your Creative Neighbours

The Creative Convergence Project (I’m the Project Manager) is conducting four World Cafe events to engage a broad cross-section of creative people into conversations about themselves, their creative practice and their neighbourhoods. These events allow us to gather fascinating qualitative data for our research study (take the survey) and are also experiments in new ways of engaging the so-called Creative Class into a conversation that has been stuck inside policy circles for too long.

What do an artist and a software developer have in common? What are our shared dreams for our neighbourhoods and our city? We invite you to join a unique conversation, meet the creative people in your neighbourhood and hope that you will leave with new perspective and new opportunities for your own work.

Download the invitation. Join the Facebook Group.

Creative Convergence Research Study: Take the Survey!

Take the Survey!

Participate in a major collaborative research initiative that explores the unique characteristics of communities, neighbourhoods and districts in which talented artists, entrepreneurs, firms and organizations thrive. Help inform public policy makers on how to better protect and promote these critical local habitats of infrastructure and services that sustain Toronto’s cultural and creative sectors.

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The Creative Convergence Project is a major collaborative research project being undertaken by a consortium that includes: Artscape, MaRS, Evergreen, OCAD, Canadian Film Centre, Toronto International Film Festival Group and funded by partners OMDC, City of Toronto, TEDCO, Waterfront Toronto and with the participation of the University of Toronto Cultural Economy Lab and a long list of partner organizations. I’m the project manager for this, and it’s really fascinating work. I’m lucky to be involved and am enjoying working with the amazing people at Artscape: Tim Jones, Reid Henry and Lori Tesolin.

Join the Community!

We’ve started a Facebook group for the project. While Richard Florida may now call Toronto home and the “creative city” is on the lips of many among Toronto’s chattering classes, it is the many thousands of creative and passionate Toronto citizens that will cocreate a city where every individual’s creative passion is nurtured and developed for the benefit of our long-term sustainability and quality of life.

Make art. Build a building. Create software. Tell stories. Push the boundaries of perception and knowledge. Perform, dance and play. All this needs space, place, people and connectivity to make it come alive.

We hope you will join us in writing the story of a city embracing its future.

Richard Florida is in ur Toronto, loving ur creatives

By now old news, but worth repeating: Richard Florida is coming to Toronto! A major coup for Roger Martin and Premier Dalton McGuinty, this is a huge development in the continuing story of Toronto’s efforts to become a world-leading creative city.

For some context, read this piece in the Globe and Mail. For a hilarious articulation of his theory, see his appearance on Monday’s Colbert Report. Introduced as Dr. Richard Florida, from University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, he did a great job keeping up with Colbert’s madness (video online until August 15th):

Stephen: So should I be following gay people around, to see where they’re living?
Rich: Absolutely!
Stephen: Ok good, because I do it already and now I have a reason.
Rich: Absolutely! Me too.
Stephen: You know what I think sir? I think that you are a gay bohemian artist that just wants to sell his house!
Rich: You know we just sold our house on Sunday, my wife and I, to move to Toronto!
Stephen: So you made a quick buck on this study!

What would draw the creative class guru to Toronto? Well sure, he loves the place. But a $120 million budget and a welcoming political leadership sure don’t hurt:

The Centre for Jurisdictional Advantage and Prosperity is a $120-million project, made possible by a $50-million donation to Rotman from the Province of Ontario. The federal government contributed an additional $10-million. The balance will be raised from the private sector.

I am looking forward to meeting Richard Florida again. My work is being drawn into the gravity well of this meteoric academic star. He comes to Toronto at a time when a critical mass of attention is being drawn to his ideas and those of like-minded leaders in creativity-driven community and economic development.

This is going to be fun!

Creative Convergence Centres: Hubs Within the Cluster

On Wednesday of this week, I attended the announcement by the OMDC and Ontario Minister of Culture Caroline Di Cocco of the first 14 projects to be funded by the Entertainment & Creative Cluster Partnerships Fund (ECCPF). I am glad that my prior work with the Ontario Government contributed to the creation of this Fund in the first place, and Wednesday was a proud moment for me. The diversity of cool projects in the mix show what is possible when we cooperate to compete. Check out the exciting CONCERT consortium project to develop an entertainment R&D network: Full List of Funding Recipients.

I am Project Manager for one of those projects, the Creative Convergence Centres Project:

The Creative Convergence Centres Project seeks to accelerate the development of vibrant physical places that become major innovation hubs and economic engines for the creative industries cluster. The project is lead by a consortium of institutions currently involved in the development of creative convergence projects including: Artscape, Canadian Film Centre, MaRS, Evergreen, Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD), New Media Business Alliance (NMBA) and Toronto International Film Festival Group. Additional partners include Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation, TEDCO and the City of Toronto.

Canadian Film Centre is the primary partner, the project is managed through Artscape and I have been contracted to manage the project. I have been really looking forward to this, as one of my research interests is around the intersection between global innovation and local place. What can projects such as these do to anchor a cluster of firms and institutions densely interlinked with many weak ties in the Toronto region? How can these places be created with intention in order to foster collaboration and to offer the possibility of creative serendipity – the unexpected next big thing that comes from a random conversation at the cafe or at an event. It is about physical infrastructure together with social infrastructure.

I will be blogging about this project through its duration. I believe it is important that the wider community understands what the project hopes to accomplish and how they can link into these hubs, whether currently existing or proposed. The project is also not exclusive, and will be looking at other similar creative hubs currently in place or proposed.

I look forward to the day when Toronto is home to a network of vibrant interlinked creative hubs where the best content, design, science and technology in the world is developed and commercialized; important new engines of economic development and prosperity.

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Play in the Entrepreneurial Sandbox

Via David Crow and Mark Dowds, news of an open house next Friday, January 12th at 5:30pm (sign up on Upcoming) for Indoor Playground, a coworking facility for startup entrepreneurs, coders, consultants, their friends and fans at Richmond and Spadina. With very flexible membership options, there seems something for everyone. From a few desks to a 1-day a week part-time space to meeting space when you need it, it will be interesting to see how the startup community comes together in this kind of a structure.

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There is a need for creative entrepreneurs to get the space (and decent espresso) they need to work and have meetings but also to gather and mix and socialize in a way that helps make the connections to discover the next big idea. I applaud Mark, David and the rest who have contributed to this. My one quibble: at first, I really didn’t like the name, but I guess that’s a taste thing. (How about The Sandbox?)

I DO like the idea that innovation and play are closely related – something I picked up from listening to Alex Manu and Eric Zimmerman. What is a game? A game is a set of rules. Play is what happens in the interstitial space between those rule structures. Play, creativity, innovation and passion are are all very closely related. These ideas are at the very core of a vibrant startup culture.

It is up to the community that comes together in the playground to embrace this idea and create the rules that will support its creative process.

If creativity and innovation come from play and passion, then understanding how to build the surrounding rules for the game is really important. The rules include how companies are formed, how individuals and companies engage with community, how space is created and sustained for community and play, how large companies and government can support the processes of discovery and benefit from them in a way that doesn’t kill the creative spirit that spawns those innovations in the first place.

The places that get the rules right for the 21st century creative economy will win in a global race that is only beginning.

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“Design is the Mortar in Social Housing that Works”

Today is the final installment of Remarkk’s Shark Week Creative Hubs Week and I wanted to highlight the social sustainability dimension that is sometimes lost in the heavy panting over attracting Richard Florida’s Creative Class and the eagerness of the culture sector to move up the public policy agenda. I’ll save a critique of Florida for another time.

Today’s Globe and Mail has a story about Vancouver architect Gregory Henriquez and his new book Towards an Ethical Architecture, which will be launched at Vancouver’s Interurban Gallery today. The article poses some important challenges to both social-housing advocates, our municipal politicians and the NIMBY crowd.

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Continue reading ““Design is the Mortar in Social Housing that Works””

Shark Week!: Creative Hubs and Co-working Edition

Ok, it’s officially Creative Hub Week on the Remarkk blog, which is this wonk-blogger’s version of Shark Week. Coming on the heals of my attendance at the Artscape Creative Hub Development Workshop, more news is surfacing, via David Crow:

215Spadina-1The Zeidlers strike again! The Centre for Social Innovation in the Robertson Building at 215 Spadina in Toronto is expanding. The development includes offices, shared services, permanent and temporary workspace and co-working and a cafe. The development is geared to innovative third sector organizations and social entrepreneurs. More details here [PDF]. I’ll be going to the info session on Friday.
The Zeidler family’s Urbanspace Property Group is a recognized leader in supporting sustainability in their developments, with a strong community connection and social purpose, bridging commerce, culture and community. They are responsible for 401 Richmond and the renewal of the Gladstone Hotel.

Indoor Playground is a more tech-startup and entrepreneur focused co-working and cafe space associated with the Innovation Commons and being planned for 364 Richmond Street West in Toronto. A lot of details are unknown, but David points to some kind of membership model. Initiated by Mark Dowds and Bobby John of Creation Step, some people I really need to get to know.

Indoor Playground is a next generation workspace based in the downtown core of Toronto. It is a home away from home for the entrepreneur who needs an office space on occasion. It helps to solve the problem of having a place to work when you are on the road or when you just want out of the house. Indoor Playground provides a good-looking and creative space populated by other great people worth meeting. It is the perfect solution for new start-ups and independent innovators who are looking for a professional yet affordable way to scale their business.

2007 is shaping up to be a very interesting year in Toronto’s social and economic innovation scene, as these new ideas of creative places become more widespread. This is something our friends at ICT Toronto should be paying attention to.

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Montreal’s Quartier des Spectacles lighting design

I love Montreal. As much as I am a Toronto-booster and a proud Torontonian, you have to recognize that when it comes to art, culture, design and urban cool, Montreal is the place to beat.

Here’s what my new friends at the Quartier des Spectacles partnership came up with after an extensive consultation and strategy process and design competition: innovative and captivating external lighting designs in front of the major venues in this thriving entertainment district centred on St. Catherine and St. Laurent.


They are not only making a strong design statement and a coherent feeling for the district, they are also demonstrating an innovation in LEDs used as a projected light source, as conceived by Photonic Dreams and built by LEIG. Each spot uses only a 3W LED!

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A Community of Community-Builders

This past week, I attended a great workshop put on by Artscape, the Creative Hub Development Workshop, held in Ottawa. Another great event by Artscape, it gathered a remarkable collection of community builders from across Canada. I look forward to continuing the conversation we began.

Creative hubs are multidimensional multi-tenant places that bring together a number of cultural, social, environmental and/or economic purposes together under a single roof. Creative hubs are being increasingly seen by city-builders as key to urban regeneration, socially-sustainable and livable communities and cultural and creative vitality. They aim to serve many public good outcomes and stakeholders in ways that are unique and relevant to their specific community and are therefore extremely complex projects to pull together successfully. Artscape is pushing the boundaries of knowledge and practice in Canada and around the world in creative community building.

A couple of my favourites include the Green/Arts Barns project at the old TTC Wychwood maintenance barns in the St. Clair/Bathurst area of Toronto and the Evergreen at the Brick Works project at the old Don Valley Brick Works, which produced much of the brick that built the city. These projects will breathe life into the city and are in themselves amazingly innovative.

The group that gathered in Ottawa are community-builders, and they are part of an emerging community of practice that are looking to Artscape to lead a revolution of sustainable social change in their communities across Canada. The challenges of living up to these hopes and aspirations will no doubt further drive Artscape’s continued evolution from a developer of nonprofit housing and studio space for artists in Toronto into an organization that supports, facilitates and enables community-builders across the country and beyond.

For just a sample of what these community-builders are doing, have a look at the Woodward’s project in Vancouver’s east side, the Quartier des Spectacles in Montreal and the Arts Court in Ottawa. From city economic development officers to ZengetsÅ« MyÅ?kyÅ?, Abbess of the Centre Zen de la Main Buddhist centre in Montreal; from theatre groups and art galleries to the Medicine Hat Clay Industries National Historic District; to say that this community of practice represents a diverse set of initiatives would be a serious understatement.

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Librarians are Hot!

I recently had the opportunity to talk to a number of librarians and fell in love. Librarians are unsung heroes. Scholars and caretakers of ancient knowledge throughout the history of civilization, the modern librarian continues this tradition in a world that is increasingly information rich, but often context and knowledge poor.

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Our community public libraries are hubs of civic engagement and culture, social development, commerce, technology access and lifelong learning. Librarians are connectors and libraries are sites where social capital is accumulated and distributed for the public good. Librarians are also eminently practical, with strong ties to their communities. They have the potential to function as interdisciplinary resources and community builders who enable innovation and creativity.

In a rapidly transforming society, resources this valuable need to exploited much more intensively. Librarians have a critical role to play in helping us grasp our collective and individual futures and enhancing our quality of life.

Hug a librarian today.

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