View Full Version : Changing space for a creative class

Apr 22, 2009, 1:29 PM
Big ideas need space to incubate

April 22, 2009
Richard Ward Allen
The Hamilton Spectator
(Apr 22, 2009)

Canada's prowess as a hockey nation begins at the neighbourhood rink. It's the space where our next generation of talent gathers to hone their skills and prepare for a shot at the big leagues.

As a country, we're well invested in creating spaces to nurture the next Sidney Crosby -- but what about our future innovators such as Jim Balsillie of BlackBerry fame or musical artists such as Daniel Lanois?

"We need more community infrastructure to support creativity and innovation," says Hamilton's own Jeremy Freiburger, an artist turned space pioneer. "It's part of building a resilient and diversified local economy that can compete with the best."

Freiburger will be among the guest speakers stirring up a conversation on creative spaces at tonight's Innovation Cafe at Paper Box Studios.

Paper Box Studios is an example of an old, industrial building that has been given new life as a production space for creative entrepreneurs. It's a facility that helps young innovators overcome a significant barrier to entering the commercial marketplace -- finding affordable space among like-minded people.

"Innovators need more than four walls, a door and a key," says Freiburger. "It's about flexible terms and the ability to collaborate with others and connect to services."

Freiburger has come to understand this dynamic through helping to open and operate Paper Box Studios and two other studios under the banner of the Imperial Cotton Centre for the Arts.

He plays the role of translator in fostering understanding among the three principal actors needed to redevelop sites in our urban core: building owners, innovators and city hall.

"Success comes from bringing people together and establishing confidence," he says.

Evidence shows this recipe is working. These hot spots for innovation offer a habitat for post-secondary graduates and a place to incubate start-up companies. They provide landlords with a predictable revenue stream and a chance to help co-create new business ventures. And they revitalize neighbourhoods and provide jobs, without tearing down historic properties or threatening local identity.

The notion of identity is important to Ghazaleh Etezal, a young community builder from Toronto invited by organizer Dr. Darlene Homonko to participate in tonight's cafe. Etezal works as a project administrator with the Bloorcourt Village Business Improvement Area and helped open a storefront space for citizens to convene and create a shared future.

"People from around the world bring their culture and talents to our community," she says. "As leaders, we need to offer neighbourhood spaces that encourage positive change."

What began as a low-cost investment in a public space, sponsored in part by the Ontario College of Art and Design, has grown larger. Through seeing "community as a canvas," Etezal and others have created the annual Big on Bloor festival and initiated efforts to become a sustainable urban village.

"Our village was once tired and grumpy," says Etezal with a smile, "now we're filled with hope and fresh ideas."

Freiburger and Etezal live and work in different cities, yet their perspectives seem remarkably alike.

Speaking with them separately earlier this week, I heard a similar story of big ideas implemented through small steps at the grassroots level. And I heard an artistic appreciation of urban redevelopment coupled with a pragmatic understanding of business.

Most strikingly, I heard the voices of two courageous risk takers who are getting things done, one space at a time.

To be a complete community, Hamilton must offer specialized spaces to excel in mind, spirit and body. These two leaders are balancing the scales.

Richard Ward Allen is the senior adviser of the Hamilton Economic Summit scheduled for May 6 and 7, 2009.

Changing space for a creative class

* Today, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Admission free and all welcome

* Paper Box Studios

468 Cumberland Ave.

Moderator: Pernell Goodyear,

founder, The Freeway Cafe

Featuring: Zach Douglas, president, McMaster Innovation Park;

Ghazaleh Etezal, project administrator, Bloorcourt Village BIA;

Jeremy Freiburger, founder, Imperial Cotton Centre for the Arts

RSVP at www.ghbn.org

Presented by the Golden Horseshoe Biosciences Network, McMaster University and Trivaris