What’s your role at Blank Page Studio?
My role is still kind of in flux. Director of Blank Page Studio is just so undefined and I’m kind of trying to balance two things a little bit because my own work is kind of taking me in this direction of community art productions mostly in the form of murals and some interactive things.
Who’s part of Blank Page Studio?
Myself Studio North Ivan Ostapenko Market Collective Intelligent Futures and a few other individuals who are on a more co-working basis.
Was Blank Page your idea or was it a collective idea?
The space itself that just kind of came together after seven or eight months of communications with an urban planner who contracts for Truman Developments which owns this building. They had initially approached me to do the mural that’s on the outside of the building and after that was kind of more of a dialogue about what this space could be. It was Druh Farrell’s campaign office and after that they weren’t sure. So there was some time to develop this idea of turning it into a creative space and who would I want to be involved in that what does that even look like? I worked through some different ideas of just turning it into a straight co-working model and just do a low monthly membership. It felt like you see those popping up in the city right now because there’s definitely a need for that working environment. For me I just didn’t want to take on too much of the management of that. I still think there’s a benefit to the community but it’s also more of a for-profit enterprise. In essence it’s like parking or storage — you have the space you rent it out for money. It removes me from the creative stuff in a way. Then right away I talked to Matt [Kennedy] and Mark [Erickson] [from Studio North] and Ivan about having office space creative space and what it would look like. We worked on the design of the space together and did all the renovations together opened it up about a month ago and now it’s here.
Is the point to be involved with what’s going on in the community?
Yeah I think as much as possible. We’ve got a pretty loose framework for success but one of the major objectives I have for this space is to kind of be a precedent for a creative space that is sustainable — that has a business end to it and a professional development component but that has an intrinsic value to the community. So as this place gets levelled and they build something new here I’d love this space to be a sort of research platform for what a new space could look like in the next building and Truman Development [which owns the building] seems to be really open to that. So we’ll just document everything that goes on in this space how it functions.
And to bring community in? You plan to have movie nights and talks and whatever else might bring people in?
Try to tie in with established community groups already because this is a business district and you see some businesses that are a lot more community-minded than others and try to work with those ones. We’ll see what happens. It’s one of the last real palatable communities in our whole city.
I imagine you won’t just rent space to anyone that you will pick people or groups that fit the creative mandate?
Kind of curate. We can kind of pick and choose who can rent the space for an evening or a weekend in the same way a community centre opens it up and you can rent the main space. I kind of want to have that model for things too to support community events and things but understanding what those events are designed to achieve. If they’re fundraisers for something as opposed to just a party or if they’re lectures or book clubs or those kinds of things that don’t have any revenue model. Then that can just be something that happens in here. We don’t need to derive revenue from every group that uses this space. We’ve got a financial advisor coming in to do a night just on taxes as a sole proprietor what you can write off why would you make the step to incorporation those simple things that a lot of people are interested in.
Let me know when that happens.
Totally right? I feel like we come out of a public school system with a very ill-equipped way of coping in this real world. You know death and taxes are the two things that are for sure and neither one of those gets talked about. All the emotional sides of being a human being having the ability to have discussions like that in here having the ability to talk about the array the spectrum of just what it is to be alive.
So the mission statement for this place is very broad then.
It’s very broad. You know loosely centred around social change though — creating more dialogue in our city. I was born and raised here and I love this city but I also see that the isolation and compartmentalization of these communities and the separation between that dialogue — neighbours talking to each other sharing ideas. I guess my background as a visual artist in this city has helped me work in a public realm a little bit more and talk to people more and hear more stories and kind of understand the value of that to my own life and hopefully pay that forward in a way.
I imagine there’s a benefit for all of you here in your own practices bouncing ideas off each other and sitting around the table being able to discuss projects and whatnot.
Yeah and ways we can integrate each others’ skills. That’s a pretty natural thing — collaboration brings you right out of your status quo of doing things and then there’s also hopefully more of a residual profit that comes out of that that’s not necessarily money. The whole idea behind this space is to pay the rent but ultimately it’s about the generation of ideas and fostering those ideas to where they might be able to create social change and impact this community specifically in a more positive way but then the greater city as a ripple.
Where did you get the idea for this was it modelled on other spaces you’ve seen?
No. I mean I’ve always wanted a studio space out of my house and I was looking at different ways of achieving that in the city for a really long time. So this is like a treehouse. It’s the dream. Having buddies around that are all doing stuff that inspires you and hopefully I can do the same thing and we can just continue to grow something.
Find out more at f acebook.com/blankpagestudio