Helen Melbourne: A Creative Reuse Centre for Toronto

A huge volume of things are still going into the waste stream – at an environmental and financial cost to all of us. Some of that solid waste that seems impossible to recycle is great for makers and the creative among us. There has been no single way to connect donors and creators. It is all hit and miss and legwork. Lets make it simple.

No maker, or arts group, or charitable program has enough storage room for all those project bits and repurposing supplies they need in order to create. Storage space is getting expensive in Toronto. It takes a lot of work to find just the right materials. And what a difference it would make to be able to shop for each project as you do it.

I want to see if there is enough interest, need and desire for setting up a Creative Reuse Centre in Toronto where creative cast-offs, industrial cut-offs, stuff from junk drawers, households, craft rooms and tool rooms can be donated and used by makers and artists of all ages and skill levels – living in the City of Toronto – and maybe beyond.

There are only three centres of this type in Canada – Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Toronto – but the one in Toronto is run by the Board of Education and only available to educators in the TDSB. There are twenty Reuse Centres (and growing) in the US. The successful models are there for us to follow. One has been operating for more than 20 years and has 20 employees!

The most sustainable models charge for the materials on a cost-recovery basis, provide employment and training and volunteer experiences. They also have a warehouse style materials shop, galleries, maker space, tool rooms with staff to oversee, and workshops and learning opportunities . And they have all started small and grown quickly.

Making things crosses all cultural, age, language, ability and skill barriers. It is a way for community to share and learn.

It will be a lot of work, but the rewards will be immense for the entire community – from child to elder, dabbler to professional.

And for me? I might finally be able to reclaim my live/work studio!

So sign up if you are interested in participating in some way. If there is enough broad interest… a group of us will make it fly with your help. And we will hold open meetings for your input and ideas!

Discussion of the project – a few pictures of successful ones in the US and Canada, and a few small boxes of reclaimed items of the type of thing that makers look for. Sign-up sheets, and an ideas board for people to add their ideas/needs/wants. Oh, and a full junk drawer! A computer with a Powerpoint presentation and web links to the successful creative reuse centres elsewhere.

  • Categories: 2015, Crafting