In a forest, the oldest trees have to fall and decompose to make space for new trees. The non-profit sector shouldn’t be any different. When an organization gets stale or stagnant, they should pack it in, and make space for new groups to flourish.
For ten years, the Toronto Public Space Committee served as an incubator for a handful of influential community projects such as Spacing magazine, Toronto Guerilla Gardeners, and Illegal Signs. The TPSC won important battles at City Hall: protecting postering rights, keeping video advertising out of our subway cars, advocating for a new sign bylaw to reduce illegal billboards, and defeating the proposed “Monster” garbage ad-bins.
The group would meet as a ‘Committee’ every month, sharing stories and proposals from both our advocacy campaigns as well as our creative community projects, such as the Downtown De-Fence Project and the Human River.
I started the group in 2001 and then stepped back in 2005, handing the group over to an amazing team of volunteers who took over the various projects in the TPSC family. They kept the ship afloat and expanded our volunteer base.
But while the spinoff projects all thrived as individual initiatives, the need for an overarching umbrella organization slowly disappeared. Just as Spacing Magazine had separated from the TPSC in 2003, so did each of the other projects, one by one. Truth be told, the TPSC stopped meeting as a “Committee” in 2009. Even though the media occasionally refers to the “Toronto Public Space Committee”, the group has actually been dormant for quite some time.
And just as we are critical of advertising campaigns that are all flash and little substance, we too should hold ourselves to the same standard.
And so it is, that the TPSC name is being retired – not in mourning, but in celebration of all the sub-projects that were born out of the TPSC family.
The TPSC proved that a small group of people, with no funding and little experience, can make a real difference in the city. I’d like to personally thank all the people who volunteered their time and energy into the various projects that grew out of the TPSC.
In the end, we were just trying to answer a simple question: Whose Space is Public Space? The answer, of course, is ‘ours’. Our politicians often forget this simple fact and treat our streets, parks and alleyways as if they only belong to a select few. It’s our responsibility to remind them. Loudly.
You can visit the archived TPSC website here.
And you can visit our major spin–off projects (2001 -2011) here:
Note: The advocacy work of the TPSC will be carried on by the recently formed Public Space Initiative (TPSI). Their first public event is tomorrow: a rally to protect public spaces from commercial naming rights. More info here.