Local art space, record shop, gallery, and print studio Possible Worlds is moving to Hintonburg, and running a crowdfunding campaign to support these efforts to expand its space and programming, after five years based in Ottawa’s Chinatown.
I first heard of Melanie Yugo and Jason Pelletier, the co-directors behind Possible Worlds, over a decade ago through their Spins & Needles event series, an arts and crafts night held at bars with live DJ music. This was years before Paint Nite was a thing in Ottawa, and represented a fun opportunity for craft-minded Ottawa residents to get together to work on creative projects while socializing. After a decade of running Spins & Needles, Melanie and Jason expanded their activities in 2015 to open Possible Worlds as an art and music space in Chinatown.
“We felt that there was a gap in who was getting to present their art and music, who was getting to participate, and that graphic art and electronic music was somewhat missing,” Melanie explained to me over email. They envisioned a friendly, welcoming and inclusive hub to help make art more accessible and promote Ottawa as a creative city. “You would be able to buy the unique work of artists, especially those who were emerging, underrepresented and/or experimental artists. You could learn new art and music skills and share knowledge. You could check out exhibitions and music performances. You could meet up with like-minded folks. It would be in a neighbourhood setting so anyone could feel comfortable coming in. We were inspired by our visits to record shops and print studios in Canada and internationally as community hubs.” Possible Worlds aims to provide accessible programming, offering low and reduced fees and affordable works of art, such as records and print.
After five successful years, Melanie and Jason decided to move Possible Worlds to a larger space in Hintonburg to accommodate their growing community and better fit the functions that their programming and shop required. “Our Chinatown location was only 330 square feet but we managed to fit a lot into it,” Melanie reflected. “One day we found a great space that fits our need. Unlike our Chinatown location, it was at street level and wheelchair accessible, which was important to us. We’re sad to be leaving the cultural community of Chinatown. But our new location is literally down the street. We’re looking forward to being in a new part of the city. Hintonburg has been known for its creativity and independent spaces for a while now, and we’re excited to add to that.”
“We’re trying to look at the bright side of this as an opportunity to set up and prepare the space more, and to build up our online resources and digital programming.”
Moving locations and launching a crowdfunding campaign to support the expansion is no easy feat in the middle of a global pandemic. Possible Worlds’ grand re-opening was originally scheduled for last weekend, but has had to be postponed to a later date due to the social distancing measures relating to COVID-19. Still, they have been able to move into their new space at 1165 Wellington Street West to start getting settled in. “We feel really lucky that our move started before the onset of the pandemic,” says Melanie. “We’re trying to look at the bright side of this as an opportunity to set up and prepare the space more, and to build up our online resources and digital programming like online workshops, DJ sessions and zine-making meetups to connect the community.”
Artists and arts spaces were some of the first to take a financial hit when social distancing measures were put in place to combat COVID-19. Musicians suddenly had to cancel their shows. Visual artists had to postpone their exhibitions. And the venues that promote arts in Ottawa, such as bars, galleries, and concert halls, all also found their sources of incomes cut off.
And yet, during these times of uncertainty and fear, there is a huge need for the creative arts more than ever, as a means of providing people with relief, hope, and inspiration to band together as a community to get through this difficult moment in history. “Art and music are so vital during these difficult times and many in the community are feeling anxious from this isolation,” Melanie observed. “We want to continue our ability to bring people together and grow creativity in Ottawa and beyond, whether it’s online or in person.”
“Art and music are so vital during these difficult times and many in the community are feeling anxious from this isolation.”
One way that people can support arts spaces like Possible Worlds, all while practicing social distancing without leaving their houses, is by contributing to their Kickstarter campaign, which runs until April 3. So far, Possible Worlds has raised about 65% of their goal of $10,000. The funds raised by this campaign will go towards supporting new inventory and the expansion of features like new listening stations, vinyl records, and washout booths for silkscreening. People who pledge have a wide range of options for rewards, including gift certificates, workshops, artist t-shirts and tote bags, and memberships. Melanie added that “any pledges that surpass our funding goal, we will donate that amount to the Parkdale Food Bank in Hintonburg, our new neighbourhood.”
Despite the setbacks brought about by the pandemic, Possible Worlds looks forward to its future plans. Melanie shared some ideas for Possible Worlds: “We want to offer even more opportunities for artists and the community to share their work, learn new creative skills and connect with like-minded people… We’ll also be thinking of ways to increase our digital offerings even beyond COVID-19, so things like digital exhibition tours or live streaming of music performances and online workshops. For example, we had to postpone our Not Normal Electronic Music Festival, which was going to take place at the end of March. It will take place here in Ottawa but we are looking at ways of bringing the festival online. Stay tuned for details on all this.”
Possible Worlds’ new location is at 1165 Wellington Street West in Hintonburg. They remain closed until further notice but you can always check out their online offerings at possibleworldsshop.com.