Old School Community Gathering Place
Who are you and what hub are you with?
Laurie Cook, Old School Community Gathering Place
What is your web address?
How would you describe your hub? Would you say that it's intentional or accidental?
How old is your hub?
The old school was opened to the public in the fall of 2009
What stage of development would you say you're in? Where along the hub 'spectrum' would you put yourself?
We are an established hub
What services are offered at your hub? What are some of the reasons people come in?
We have a cooperative Art Gallery, rooms for community meetings and events,
How do people get to your hub?
We are in a rural community, so most people drive thier own vehicles to get to us, but we are also very central in the village, so some people are able to walk or bike to us.
What is your governance structure? Do you have a board of directors?
We are a non profit cooperative, with a working board.
If you have staff, how many and what are their roles?
In additon to the volunteer gallery staff, the space typically employs a part time coordinator
In context of your community, are you a functional or geographic hub?
A geographic hub
What is the story of your hub? How did your hub come about? What is its history?
Redevelopment of the Old School came about because the 'school' (which up to about 2008 continued to house kids from Primary to Grade 2) was closing, and in 2006 during a community visioning process, it was identified as an asset that the community wanted to preserve and protect as one of very few heritage buildings in the area, and re-develop to accomplish some other goals in the community vision.
What’s working well?
What's working well is the Old School now has designation as a municipal heritage site (built 1924), and we have a variety of partners that help us with capital and operating expenses. Councillor in the area is very supportive.
What are your challenges?
The community would like to see the Old School as a 24/7 hub, but it is a constant challenge to find funding / generate enough revenue to pay for a person to be in the building on a regular basis.
What do you think is the most special or unique thing about your hub?
It is about arts, culture and community innovation in the style of the Antigonish Movement. We are still exploring what that means but basically - besides offering free space for community groups to meet and get going - we are now looking to be more 'intentional' about how we use art and culture to get people thinking about what kind of community they live in, and reflect on what kind of community they want to live in. Our arts and culture events are also key events for bringing people into the building to see what it's all about, and just connecting people, building that 'base' of caring about one's neighbours and how they are doing.
What has been most valuable for your community about having a hub?
The hub is most valuable right now as a meeting space for community groups - broad range - and having a place to explore arts and culture in our community.
Who uses your hub? Who benefits?
A lot of nonprofit groups, and the community benefits from their use of the hub by supporting the growth of local leadership to help create change in the community.
What do you imagine your hub will be like in 5 years? 10 years?
In 5-10 years, we would like to see a social enterprise hub that is buzzing with activity with people of all ages 24/7, and everyone knows the Old School is the place to be to connect with others.
What motivates your volunteers?
A lot of people joined the membership in the beginning to support saving the building (we sold special lifetime memberships for $100 per family to support getting the building in the beginning. Others have since gathered around the arts and culture programming/events, and the development of the gallery as a place for local artists to showcase their work. Musicians around the monthly coffeehouses to showcase their music. We want to do more outreach to see what else people would like to see happening at the Old School. Gathering people around particular interests seems to work well.
Is there space for informal socializing or for more formal programming, or both?
What is your group doing to encourage different groups / individuals to meet one another and network / build social capital?
We try to have a variety of programming / events that interest a broad range of people - but we see ourselves as a 'space' mainly for other people / other community members or groups to figure out what they would like to see happen at the Old School or in the community. We hope with a regular staff person on hand that we can do more to help build connections in general just by having a person available for people to talk to about different ideas.