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Ephemeral Geographies of DIY Making Space in Toronto’s Creative City

Ephemeral Geographies of DIY Making Space in Toronto’s Creative City

Written by: Loren March
Published in: Outstanding Papers - Year: 2018
Book Line: Vol. 24 No. 11 ISSN 1702-3548


This paper discusses practices of “creative placemaking” in Toronto, the complex relationships that are formed between creative practitioners and the places they create, and the crucial role of more informal and do-it-yourself (DIY) workspaces in the broader creative community. As geographies and conditions of work have shifted, and affordable, accessible and appropriate creative workspace in the city has become increasingly rare, creative practitioners from across various fields are forced to find alternative ways to continue their practices. I examine the role of the DIY workspace as a crucial form of creative space in the city that offers the creative practitioner a level of spatial stability in the face of rapid and often arts-led gentrification, development and upscaling across the downtown. Using a mixed-methods approach that includes participant photography, I explore the imagery, production, materiality, and functions of these spaces; the ways in which they blur and require complex negotiations of boundaries; the ways in which they benefit, challenge and impact their makers and users; and their relationships with top-down Creative City policy frameworks and institutions. I argue that these kinds of spaces are often very different from dominant ideals of what an art space should be, are different from the at-home art spaces of the past, and are increasingly necessary for creative practitioners to continue their work in a changing city where they have fewer and fewer options, in spite of the deployment of Creative City discourse that might suggest otherwise. I also argue that dominant imagery and narratives distort our understandings of creativity and space in the city, but that real and imagined are mutually embedded, and that examinations of workspaces as perceived, lived and conceived can allow us to better understand them as places.