She walked by the large-windowed, tiny room on George Street several times before “working up the nerve,” as she put it, to step inside. Since then, she’s been back to the space two to three times a week, often with a family member. She always comes eager to make art, to encourage other newcomers in the space, and/or just help out wherever she can.
This is just one story of how the Creating Space Community Arts Studio is living into its possibility of being a vibrant place of belonging for downtown Peterborough.
It’s becoming a go-to place for people who don’t have somewhere to go and who want to be in community with others while creating whatever kind of art they wish, whether that’s colouring a picture, composing a poem, or painting a masterpiece,
“We have developed a core group of people who come regularly, who feel like this is their space,” founder and regular volunteer Deb Reynolds says. “They want to take ownership, they want to participate in making it bigger, making it better, making it exist in a way that serves them and the people that they know.”
This is exactly in keeping with the original vision for the space—to be a place where everyone is welcome and those who don’t have access to the arts for whatever reasons do so.
Deb notes she herself feels more connected to Peterborough and what’s happening in the city through her engagement with Creating Space. “It’s created a community for me,” she says.
Not only that, but she is finding her own creative juices have been sparked more than she ever imagined. “I have done more art in the last five months than I’ve done in years, and it’s not just when I’m here. It’s at home. I’m more creative. I’m always thinking about what’s possible for this space and what can happen down the road.”
A dream in the making for about four years, with a few vision-related activities occurring here and there, the Creating Space studio finally came to life and has been at its current location, 247 George Street North, since December of last year. It’s turned out to be a fabulous spot for inspiring new “drop-ins” as people walk by, catch sight of the window and sign, and often decide to step inside to see what it’s all about.
Deb has not been so much surprised as affirmed by the invariable responses from people upon learning that the use of the supplies and space is free to anyone. “Their minds are boggled that this is a possibility, and then the corresponding response is, ‘This is so fantastic, we really need this.’”
Creating Space is set to move to new temporary digs from May to October. The John Howard Society of Peterborough is donating the use of a back building on its property for that time (305 Stewart Street, entrance off Charlotte Street).
“In a perfect world, we would have a permanent space next October to go to. In a fantastic world, we would be able to come back here,” Deb says. Funding for the space is the main hurdle.
Peterborough residents are encouraged to get involved and support Creating Space in whichever way they can, whether that’s through gifts of their time, supplies, or money. “Everything that has happened here has been because of donations,” Deb says. The space is open when it is depending on the availability of volunteers.
Visions for the future of the newly designated not-for-profit, besides finding a permanent space, include the ability to hire staff, pay for workshop facilitators, and host pop-up community arts events.
In the meantime, Creating Space may be moving, but not far, and it will be continuing to hold up that possibility of being a vibrant place of belonging wherever it is.
Team members for Creating Space are Marion Little, Michelle Martin, Susan Bacque, and Myria Reisolas.
The studio is one of 130 Art Hives worldwide, though Creating Space has a broader focus on art-making of any kind, including writing and music. Not surprisingly, the name has a double meaning.
To learn more, visit the Creating Space Facebook page.
Photos by Michelle Strutzenberger.