The Importance of Place
Exploring Informal Learning for Community Leadership through Auto-Ethnography.
In an attempt to understand why informal learning experiences often resonate deeply with—and contribute to the development of—community leaders, this research investigates what role place has in shaping the learning experiences most influential for developing community leadership skills. Taking the form of an auto-ethonography, select community leadership roles I held between 2007 and 2017 are examined through the act of critical reflection, focusing on elements such as snapshots, artifacts, and metaphor which were selected from an archive of work.
17 Grand Ave.
2015–2019. Four years. One place. 🏠
Home is what we make of the people, experiences, environments, and things we invite to be close to us. Treat your living space like a museum, and you’ll live in a museum. Create a welcoming space for neighbours, and your neighbours will come. Live in your space, and you will live.
While there are certain elements that I’ll never miss from my time spent at 17 Grand Ave, when I look back to this place I called my first home I can’t help but to think about the various moments out of which memories formed.
Rochester, New York
Home of the Garbage Plate. 🍝
Mid-sized American cities are not what they once were. Or, at least that is what we are led to believe. If you take the time to visit, engage with, and immerse yourself with the culture of what were once the lifeblood of the American dream you will find that these cities still have lots going for them. These places are taking on new identities of what a mid-sized city should be.
A weekend wasted away in Rochester, New York provides a wholly worthwhile and rewarding experience. Whether you are a group of guys just looking to explore, and to find craft beer and spirits along the way; or a family that is seeking out elements of play and good wholesome food—this city, the birthplace of Kodak, Western Union, and French’s, and still home to the Garbage Plate, is a sleeper city—one that offers any visitor more than initially meets the eye.
…to the trees of the Carolinian Forest. 🛃
Inspired by Bill Hodgson’s tree sculptures, I wanted to compile a guide that would let visitors & tourists experience the trees in an interactive and meaningful way.
The (metal) Trees of the Carolinian Forest have, at times, received some unfortunate local press and they are often misunderstood and under-appreciated by many residents of the Forest City. Having a strong affection for traditional paper maps and an appreciation for Hodgson’s work, I wanted to capture this public art installation in a way that would allow people to engage with the sculptures and the downtown core where they are located.
The ”Official” Passport to the Trees of the Carolinian Forest was a mini-guide that when torn from a notepad could be folded and used as a guide for a walking tour of the sculpture collection.
Block Party in a Box
Everything you need to put on a successful block party, without breaking a sweat. 🎉
Recognizing that we don’t often get together simply to socialize and celebrate with one another, Block Party in a Box was designed as a resource kit that can be used by anyone wanting to plan a block party for their street, community, or neighbourhood. With pre-made posters, checklists, games, and other resources, Block Party in a Box allows anyone to plan and execute a successful block party without breaking a sweat.
Available as a free download, Block Party in a Box has been downloaded by citizens from around the globe. Less about the actual toolkit and more about encouraging and enabling residents to be more active in their neighbourhoods, Block Party in a Box acts as a catalyst for community interactions and relationship building.
Empty urban spaces. 🥛
Big City Lights
In the summer, in the city. 🌃
Spend any amount of time in a city, at night, and you will soon uncover its true essence. The beat of the city’s heart, its neglected people and places, the things that truly matter and everything that has, or can be forgotten.
Big city lights.
The scenes we pass by during our daily travels, coming to and from work, are the things we never give attention to but that deserve more of it. Often, the only time we have the head space, perspective, or time to appreciate these intimate spaces is after all of the offices have closed; after the sun has gone down, and the city is left to be everything it is and nothing that others claim it to be.
London Culture Tour: Dive Bar Edition
A group of regionalists walk into a bar. 🍻
What constitutes a dive bar these days is open to individual interpretation. Once a derogatory term for a drinking establishment that only the seediest of individuals would frequent, the term is now worn as a badge of honour and has led way to a renaissance of these unique cultural spaces.
Having never spent much time in these drinking establishments, the unknowns of local dive bars has always held a certain appeal to me. Wanting to better understand these anchors of local economics and establishments from which community can form, I proposed the idea to some fellow localists to spend a day touring a selection of these places.
Parking (Ottawa, Ontario)
Free car storage. 🅿️
As the nation’s capital and a personal favourite place to visit; Ottawa, Ontario provides an interesting study into how we allocate and use space in urban environments.
In the dense core where our political representatives work and the head of state resides, much of the available land is dedicated to the housing and use of single occupancy vehicles. This is not unlike most urban centres across North America.
What’s interesting is that for the majority of the day, and certainly throughout the evening, these spaces are inanimate representations of what we may value most about the places we inhabit. Although it is not a secret why so much space is devoted to vehicles and not to other, more communal uses, taking a moment to seriously consider how society has chosen to use our limited space brings up many questions about how we may define place versus space.
The following photographic study asks for greater consideration to be given to how we use and allocate the space in our cities.
A guerrilla wayfinding project. 🦍 👉
guerrilla (adj.): unsanctioned, self initiated and spontaneous interventions (intended to be in the public realm for the greater good)
wayfinding (n.): how you find your way from place to place (physical orientation)
Walk London installed signs around the downtown core of London, Canada directing pedestrians to local businesses, organizations, parks, and institutions.
Places called home. 🏘️
From a young age, I have found myself making trips to the Hamilton Road Neighbourhood on a regular basis. From having fish and chips at Bob’s—now gone; getting my hair cut—from the same person, age 2 to 25; to eating some old fashioned Italian food from Duffy’s Cove—also gone. I have some memorable moments etched in my mind from this stretch of road and its surrounding community.
Now, as life has become busier, I do not find myself returning to this area as much as I once did. When I do venture back to this part of town, one which provided me so much as I was growing up, I often make the trip by foot. Walking to Hamilton Road from my home provides an opportunity to experience this part of my broader community in a new light. As I walk my pace of life slows and my eyes open to what place can mean in the context of the everyday elements which surround us.
PARK(ing) Day is a annual open-source global event where citizens, artists, and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public places. The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical conversations around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban, human habitats.
This Once Was
Building upon what has come before. 🧱
Each day as we walk around the places where we live, signs of previous eras often present themselves. Remaining façades, historic plaques, or modern attempts of recreating the past; these remnants of what once was are often all we have to interact with of the history that has shaped the places we inhabit.
As I pass by the same buildings day-after-day, I often think to myself, “what was once located where these new buildings and businesses now stand?” Some of the buildings have managed to retain their character over the years but many buildings in London, Canada have suffered lesser fates, many destroyed and demolished to make way for new buildings and far too often, parking lots.
Searching through archives of images to find historic buildings that had their own character, I took to the streets to find the current and past locations of these buildings. Super-imposing the historic with what currently exists in the same location, the following image study provides commentary on: how the city has changed over time, what character of the street has been lost and maintained, and the level of value we assign as a community to our historic groundings when weighed against modern city-building, and political agendas.
Attending to our surroundings. 🎥
Urban life can pass by quicker than time itself. If we are not intentional about slowing down our pace, to give attention to the spaces we interact with, we run the risk of disassociating with the very places that contribute to shaping our identity.
Simply observing the world around us, making note of the ways which people interact with each other and their environments, is one way to better understand and remain connected to the locales where we choose to live. Often, in giving attention to the locations we find ourselves within at any given moment and the places we most frequent, we can learn more about ourselves as individuals and as members of the larger collectives we belong to.
Instigating a city-wide conversation. 💯
100 Ways was a sign-based installation that instigated a community-wide conversation in London, Canada. Spanning multiple topics of public interest, the ideas presented were generated from an open public call which we collected and distilled down to a select hundred that provided an overview of all received submissions.
A summer in the city of love. 🇫🇷
In 2005 I was fortunate to spend a summer in the City of Love—Paris, France. Without any agenda other than to simply live, I did not know what I would do with the free time I was afforded, or what I could expect to experience while there.
With no knowledge of the French language, I interacted with the city and its inhabitants on a level I had not previously experience in any other locale. I found myself exploring the beauty of this historic place on a daily basis through the acts of walking, watching, and listening. As the days unfolded I began to fall in love with the nature of what can transform a collection of urban spaces into a place. The people, the spaces, and the interactions amongst and between these elements shaped Paris into a vibrant urban wonderland in front of my eyes and under my feet.
Although it was impossible for me to know it at the time, a chance run-in with a stranger, the relationship I built over a few short hours, and the mark that experience left both in my mind and in my heart; this was the genesis for my love and appreciation of cities, community, and place.