Introducing Gather’s Safe Studio Program
Interpreted by Alexis De Villa
Come join us on a process to evolve our studio into a more accessible space for our community here in Amiskwacîwâskahikan (so-called-Edmonton). Our hope is to provide community members with more accessible, affordable, and safer space for folks who want to learn, explore, reconnect, and create magic with textiles!
But, how are we to do that?
Striking a balance between surviving, supporting, and standing with –as a small business and members of a community –sometimes seems like an almost impossible task. However, reminding ourselves that we are part of a community, and not separate, is a driving force to work through the difficulties and maintain meaningful relationships that make up us. We are still here because of our community.
Communal care is self-care!
We have reached out to other small businesses, non-for-profits, and community organizations to see what they are doing, and it is amazing how generous they have been! With their help, we decided to explore and try out a Safe Studio Program.
The Safe Studio Program will provide closed-space for folks who may be more vulnerable to harm. In Amiskwacîwâskahikan there is a tendency to have one-off workshops, fleeting spaces, and/or short term access for vulnerable folks. How can we start thinking more long term? How can we both build AND nurture our relationships in the city?
The first iteration of our Safe Studio Drop-in Program will be opening up the studio to 2SQTBIPOC+ folks (2-spirit, Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous, and People of colour) and will be facilitated by a 2SQTBIPOC+ community member. A few 2SQTBIPOC+ allies will be available for further instruction and assistance with the consent of community members in the space.
Each Safe Studio Drop-in will be facilitated by a member of that community to create working opportunities for folks who may experience barriers & discrimination in workplaces and creating safer spaces for both the community members and the facilitators.
Safe spaces are only one piece of the complex puzzle of creating more access. Financial uncertainties are also an access barrier for many folks and small businesses: We can only provide space if we have access to it, while community members can only utilize the space with materials.
Again, with the generous knowledge and guidance of other community groups, we have come up with the Community Fund. During the first iteration of the Safe Studio Drop-in, the Community Fund will be available to 2SQTBIPOC+ folks to access instruction, tools, items from the store, and/or to sustain our Safe Studio Drop-in Program (i.e. Pay for the labour of the facilitator). Contributions to the Community Fund can be made through Sliding Scale/Pay what you can workshop costs, in store or online purchases, and through our website.
As this program unfolds, we hope that it will evolve and change to best support and serve our community here in Amiskwacîwâskahikan (so-called-Edmonton).
If you are part of a community and have wished to have a Safe Space, let us know at email@example.com. Thank you.
About the writer
Hello! My name is Alexis De Villa (They/She/Sikato). I am a queer, female-presenting, Mad-identified, able-bodied, second-generation Pilipinx and Pangasinan settler residing in Amiskwacîwâskahikan, Treaty 6 territory, territory of the Papaschase, Cree, Saulteaux, Nakota Sioux, Blackfoot, Metis, Iroquois, Dene, Ojibway / Saulteaux / Anishinaabe, Tsuutʼina, Inuit, and many others who have been colonially erased and ignored. Although my presence on this Land was a result of mass migration of my ancestors from the Philippines following the resource and material export by Canadian Mining and imperialism, I am still uninvited to this Land and must continue to stand with the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island. Their liberation is our liberation.
I got hired at Gather Textiles as a studio assistant in Spring of 2021 with hopes of sharing and exchanging different modes of knowledge around textiles, weaving, community, and community organizing within the Gather studio space and beyond. Being brought into a space of community textile arts, I am hopeful to combine intergenerational knowledge of community organizing with textiles to begin to break down access barriers that folks in Amiskwacîwâskahikan – folks that I have had the honor to know, love, and be connected– continue to experience. In other words, getting the materials into the hands of the community to create magic! It will be a learning process and my hope is to move through the process with care and compassion. Thank you for your patience ahead of time!