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July-August 2017

Inside Toronto’s new communal space where creativity flourishes

Site 3 has a mission: to teach, create, display, and inspire

Brian Capitao

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 11.17.52 AM

Photo by Lindy Wilkins.

Tucked away in an alley off the corner of Bloor and Ossington is what looks like a two-storey garage with only a small purple neon sign acting as a beacon to passersby. This is home for a collection of hackers and hobbyists known as Site 3—a communal space that rewards curiosity of the trades.

Many are there because they simply do not have the space to tinker with machinery in the urban city. The atmosphere is relaxed and akin to hanging out in someone’s garage as saturated reds adorn the upper deck amid throwaway couches that make the space pop with vibrancy. Hanging on the shelf is a giant sign that reads, CHARCADE—a reference to the fire art installation made by a few members that ended up as an attraction at the Burning Man festival.

“The space was founded on a four-step mission: teach, create, display and inspire. It’s not strictly an artist studio. We are trying to build community around it,” says Seth Hardy, one of the co-founders.

The diverse membership includes machinists, coders, OCAD students, architects and prop makers. It strives to be inclusive by offering a LGBTQ and Ladies night on Tuesday evenings. At a given moment members could be working on any number of projects: whether it be hacking the vending machine to be accessed by their key fob, working on a way of using electroencephalography (EEG) technology to pour drinks into a cup or working on their latest fire art installation.

Members of the space have gone on to acquire various jobs or have used the space to start their own business. Teaching is done on a volunteer basis. The instructors are people who have hands-on experience working in some capacity with rarefied tools. Members will often pool their resources together to procure equipment as well as having items on site for other members to borrow.

No matter what project you have in mind, “chances are there are people here that can help you realize it,” says member Krista Cassidy.

Cassidy is now working on her own fire art project with a friend. Enthusiastic about her experience, she comments on the process: “It’s great if it serves a purpose, and it’s great if you want to build something that serves absolutely no purpose at all and is just there to be cool,” she says. “Anything kind of goes here—which is awesome.”

As many skills are lost through the convenience of technology, hard skills like welding and blacksmithing become a lost art. As Cassidy put it, Site 3 offers a space where people can “figure out where things work, taking things apart, and learn how to fix them.”

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