When you try to picture a community, what do you see? You probably picture people, having conversations, working together, creating things. You may picture community events that bring those people together: street festivals, hockey games, concerts, art shows. You may picture the groups that make those events happen: neighbourhood groups, community organizations, non-profits, governments. You may even picture something less tangible: the feeling of openness, creativity, and ambition that helps fuel those groups.
What you probably don’t picture is space: the kitchens where the neighbourhood groups meet, the bars where the concerts happen, the parks that hold the festivals, the streets and trails that allow people to get there.
This is understandable, for a couple of reasons. First, people and events and feelings are simply more interesting. That’s why we’ve filled our pages with stories about them. It’s harder to tell a compelling story about a building, or to get people excited about a road. And second, space feels like it’s assumed. A city is full of space. It’s always been there, and we assume always will be there.
But space and infrastructure are the foundation (quite literally) on which a community is built, and we never realize that more than when it goes away.
Space is becoming a premium in Peterborough. With rising housing prices, people are having a harder time finding spaces to live in Peterborough. And as rents go up in the downtown and beyond, cultural institutions are being squeezed out. The closure of the Spill last year gave the music community a sharp reminder of how important space is, and how easily it can disappear.
The September issue of Electric City Magazine is filled with stories about space, about how we build the foundations that allow everything else to happen.
Our cover story on The Theatre on King is about how Ryan Kerr created a physical space for independent theatre in Peterborough. For years, the city lacked a space where new artists could have their first chance and where more experienced artists could experiment. Though The Theatre on King is small and out of the way, it has helped to revitalize the local theatre community, bringing in a new generation of theatre practitioners and encouraging artists to be daring in their choices.
Ann Jaeger expands that conversation, looking at other spaces that have helped to nurture art and artists in the community, including Evans Contemporary and Watson & Lou. Behind each of these examples are driven community members and organizations, laying the basic infrastructure for themselves and others to build a community.
Government, too, can play a role in creating space. Our story on the Official Plan is about how we build the basic infrastructure on which a community can grow. Planning roadways, transit systems, and subdivisions may seem like a dry and dull business, but so much depends on it. A subdivision with a designated space for public gatherings encourages people to come together and meet their neighbours, and a good transit system allows people to explore their city and take part in community events all over.
Space can also be an emotional and psychological concept. The story of UnCon is about diverse and marginalized people looking for space where they feel comfortable within gaming. The physical space they’ve built—a new gaming convention with a focus on accessibility and diversity lasted a day, but the wider mission is to serve as a model for acceptance within the wider community.
In the pages of Electric City Magazine, we hope we have created a similar emotional space, a model for how diverse people can come together and discuss the ideas that will help shape our physical spaces, and build our community together.
Photo by B. Mroz
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