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Some of the Westboro Brainery's upcoming classes: image from their website.

Get a quick shot of learning at the Westboro Brainery

By Chrissy Steinbock on November 18, 2015



Where can you get a nice dose of knowledge in one evening, is more social than watching another documentary on Netflix, and costs about the same as a night out anywhere? Whether you’re looking to break the routine, start a project, or have your eyes opened to something new, chances are you’ll find what you’re looking for at the Westboro Brainery.

downloadRelaunched in September, the Westboro Brainery offers crowd-sourced education on a wide range of subjects. The initiative, which is powered by the Dovercourt Recreation Centre, was inspired by the Brooklyn Brainery’s successful model of citizen-lead education. I spoke with Sarah Banks, the Brainery’s curator and coordinator to learn more. With talks on everything from poetry to Breaking Bad, plus hands-on workshops on chalk painting and hot sauce, the Brainery sure is a mixed bag. “We’re finding that the most popular stuff tends to fall in the DIY, the food related, what I call quick and dirty academia, like the philosophy class we just had and then just the generally quirky,” says Banks.

Another advantage is that the classes are brief, at most, three hours. “In this day and age with the schedules people have and the busy lives they have it’s hard to commit to say a ten week course offered by a community college or continuing ed.” Banks says. Then there’s the affordability factor. The average class is $10-15 though some are more expensive to cover the cost of supplies.

The Brainery’s classes are targeted to adults though there’s an exciting exception to this rule coming up in February. Just in time for the peak of hockey season there will be a special class on the iconic NFB film “The Sweater” taught by Chris Robinson a local writer who’s also the Ottawa Animation Festival’s artistic director.

What you’ll find
In one word: variety. The Brainery’s offerings cover a wide range of subjects guaranteed to expand your mind, whether you want to delve into the finer points of brewing kombucha, the history of funk, or are seeking something totally different like how to get more improv in your life. Asked about the quirkiest class she’s seen come out of the Brainery, Banks says “Honestly, it would have to be ‘Goats Are the New Cats‘.” Variety also applies to the .people who teach and learn at the Brainery. “For whatever reason Dovercourt requests date of birth on the registration so we know the ages of people coming in and they’re totally all over the map,” Banks says. “I love the idea that a twenty-one year old can be in the same class as a ninety five year old.” From actors and musicians to entrepreneurs, all kinds of people share what they know at the Brainery. You could teach a class too. If you have some niche knowledge or experience you’d like to share, the Brainery wants to hear your pitch.

What you won’t find
More of the same. Says Banks, “We tend to stay away from health and wellness, self-help, professional development and overly scientific or technological stuff because we feel those things are well covered by other organization in the city. We want to drill down into this other area and offer something that other groups in the city don’t offer.”

The Westboro Brainery makes it easier to share knowledge and keep learning whatever your situation. Here’s to discovering something new!


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