What is the Thistle?

The Thistle is a youth-run arts and activism centre. We operate in four main ways:

We are open in the afternoons and evenings for drop-in. Please see signs on the door, big white board and website for hours.
We run classes and projects of all kinds. There is lots of information available about what’s going on and how to sign up. If it isn’t totally obvious, ask someone.

We run full-time, paid training programs during the day, focused around arts, community work, etc.   If you are interested, write carla@purplethistle.ca

Also, lots of groups, big and small, use the space for meetings, conferences, gatherings or as a work-space. You are welcome to meet here, just run it past the collective info@purplethistle.ca

How do I use this space?

First, come on in and check it out. See what we have, see what kinds of stuff people are working on, see what you’d be interested in using or learning how to use.

Is it like a school? are there teachers and students?

we are often mistaken for an alternative school. we are not a school, not even a nice democratic one. Think of the Thistle as more of a resource centre, or better, an alternative-to-school!

People learn all the time at the thistle and there is a lot of sharing of knowledge and skills going on. We celebrate and strive for horizontal and friendly relationships between mentors and participants.

Can I use everything?

Pretty much. Use your common sense and ask questions. But if something doesn’t explicitly direct you not to use it, please feel welcome. That includes everything – all the supplies, the computers, all the equipment. If you don’t know how to use something (darkroom, Oxberry, sewing machines etc.) find out when the next class is or who can teach you – there should be signs up – but if not, ask the staff person.

Is everything free?

Pretty much. If not it will be obvious. But all our classes and supplies and equipment are almost universally free for everyone.

Can I take stuff home?

Please don’t take our supplies or equipment home – unless there is an obvious sign-out procedure. But if you make something – say a painting or lino or zine – then for sure, its yours.

How do you fund the centre/project?

the Purple Thistle is under the umbrella of Arts In Action, a non-profit society with charitable status. Founded by Claudine Pommier in 1988!  We get most of our funding from grants and are always looking for ways to be more self-reliant and diverse our funding. have ideas? send them to us!

AND, Make sure to give us your email contact so we can tell you about upcoming events and classes, etc.  you can send carla an email here: carla@purplethistle.ca

What are the skills link programs?

At least once a year, and sometimes twice, we run a Service Canada-funded Skills Link program called Dream Seeds, it is exclusively for young women and is organized around art and community organizing.

Participating in this project is a full-time job that runs from 9 – 4:00 every day in the centre for between 5 or 6 months each, pays full-time and has multiple components, including employment support, college entry, project start-up help, mentorships, internships and much else.

There is always significant interest in these programs, so if you are interested, please write manisha for more information and/or to get signed up for the next one.

Do I have to be 15-30 to use stuff?

No. we’re run by young people, but folks of all ages drop in to use our computers and such. The whole idea is to break down ageism and age-based stereotypes. If we enforced our own versions of those that would suck. Above any of the stuff we put on grants, the thistle is a freeskool and a resource centre. There are some times when we’re trying to build a safe space for youth (and for other people, ie. Queer youth, young women and people of colour, etc.) and when that’s the case it will be explicitly stated.

What should I know if i want to be a part of the Thistle?

Come to a meeting to meet everyone. Our meetings are really relaxed. We don’t ask that anybody have all the answers or even know where to start.

Read our Volunteer policy here.

We love it when people come to ask a lot of questions- young people especially. We ask that you think before you start talking (a lot goes on at our meetings, and we try to make them short.) If you and some friends have an idea for a project, but need a leg up for supplies, space and mentor support, come to the Thistle. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make your own program there.

We run on a ‘no assholeism’ policy. Mistakes are encouraged; but racism, sexism, classism, homo/trans phobia, ableism, and all other forms of aggression will be challenged. Be kind.

You’re up a flight of stairs! why don’t you move?

we really are trying to combat this issue and are on a waiting list (hopefully next in line) to lock down a space on the ground floor that will be accessible (including the washroom).

for now, we stay here for two main reasons:

1. the price: we have a good deal and can afford to keep the thistle FREE!

2. because we are supported to be youth-run in our current space. Thus tackling ageism head on!

It’s hard to convince a landlord in this neo-liberal city to house a project like the Thistle, where youth truly run the space and where hundreds of folks come in the space…. our current building owner, loves us and has our back.

if you have any ideas, or want to help us raise more funds so we can afford a larger rent, please contact us. we’d love to be more accessible.

So you’re anarchists but the government pays most of your rent? Shitty.

Firstly,  a lot of the way we run is anarchist, and there are for sure anarchist involved, but that’s where the anarchist part ends.  Secondly, yeah, we take money from shady characters. It’s a bigger philosophical issue: pragmatism within the Almighty Dollar System versus lifestyle politics and ideological purity. Capitalism makes everything a personal choice about what you’d rather sacrifice in any given situation. In this case, we’re more concerned with having an alternative-to-school than we are about not depending on the government for cash.