final dates!


hello community!

thank you for joining us in celebrating our new show, Bad Walls Good Art, and for coming out for our final party– it was lovely to see you all and we hope you all had a wonderful time!

near the end of the night!

here are our plans for the final weeks:

1. we are open for drop in* for two more weeks:

  • mon: 430-10 pm
  • tue: 430-7pm
  • wed: 430-7 pm
  • thur: 430-10 pm


we want to see you in our last couple weeks, so do come hang out, make some art, meet new friends and make awesome plans for the future!

This is also the BEST time to come in and pick up your things — clean out your lockers, drop off keys, etc. if you can’t make it in over the next two weeks, contact us and we will arrange another time.

3. we will be planning work parties and will host a free store soon (DATE TBA– sometime in April)

4. we will be all moved out by April 25th (so we can put in new floors and fix the walls!).


*we won’t be able to host any new (larger) workshops or tours — thanks for understanding.

thank you



Windsor House School Moving into the Thistle Space


cropped-WHbanner1Full Circle!

We are thrilled to announce that Windsor House School (WHS) will be the new project to run the current Thistle space!  Windsor House, a publicly-funded democratic school for K-12 children and youth, is located in North Vancouver at this time. The Thistle space will be a second home that will house all kinds of rad art programs — kind of like a hacker/maker space for WHS teens. Stay tuned to hear about this incredible teen program and all about the WHS move to East Van!

This part of their story is a meaningful end to our story, and here’s why: back in 2000, before the Thistle was even an idea, Matt Hern (founder of the Thistle) worked at WHS where he had been working closely with a small group of teens. This crew of kids and Matt lived in East Van and were looking to create something more local, something in their neighbourhood. So Matt and that group gathered weekly at his house for about 6 months or so, and during those meetings and hangouts dreamed up the Purple Thistle together. This group of 7 friends started the Thistle, and a bunch of them were from WHS!

To have a bunch of youth from the same place where the Thistle grew out of move in to our space is incredibly meaningful to us and we look forward to seeing what will emerge out of this project in their new home!





When: Saturday, March 14th 7 pm
this will be our FINAL event in the space.

Artists will also have their art for sale + Stay Solid A Radical Handbook for Youth books will be available!
there will be snax!

performances by Khari McClelland, Jess Hill, Zach Bergman and many others!

come early and stay late!

we are excited to see you!

PS: there will be lots of photography and some footage being filmed for the film.




access info

thistle show final-01



Letter to the community


Refusing to Jump the Shark, OR: the Thistle was never meant to be an institution.

dear friends, community and supporters,

As many of you may have heard, the Thistle has hit some hard funding cuts this past year. It’s been pretty rough and it has required an administrative dance-to-end-all-dances just to keep us afloat. It hasn’t been all bad though; we’ve managed to do some cool stuff anyhow, like Solidarity Camp during the teachers strike, an amazing public art show at Heartwood Cafe and another run of  FARMcamp (to name just a few).  But energy and funding at the Thistle has been dwindling, and it means that we are going to close the space at the end of April.

Before we all jump to the front lines and try and save the space, please have a read about how this transition and change isn’t about saving the Thistle space, but about celebrating the Thistle and the ongoing work of youth liberation, friendship, and community.

This is a letter to say thanks to a lot of folks and hey, let’s keep in touch!  

The Thistle has been around for 14 and half years, and that’s something to be really proud of. Not one person is the Thistle, so be sure to talk to folks who have been involved with the project, their individual or collective stories will be worth hearing!

The Thistle was never meant to be an institution, but rather a space where folks could come together meet and dream about doing something collaboratively and then do it! And overall, that’s what has happened.

Youth liberation is at the Thistle’s core- an alternative to school. A place to reimagine how young folks can organize and co-create. What blossomed from almost 15 years in this environment, are solid friendships and a community that lives, and will survive, outside the walls of the centre.

A bunch of us at the Thistle think we have had an impact on the discourse of youth liberation and youth engagement in their communities and we feel pretty great about that, too. But more than all of that, what has happened at the Thistle over the almost 15 years has been about the creation of solid friendships and community.

At the Thistle we learn to trust — to trust that kids and youth have the capacity to solve their own problems and to author their own lives, and to trust ourselves as adults and mentors — to learn to work together in a way that lives so comfortably outside institutions.  So right now, we also need to trust that this is the time to end this experiment, and that new projects will flourish.  The signs are lining up (low participation, funding issues, slowing of momentum), it’s time to be responsive to that and trust ourselves.

A bit more about why we are closing:

Over the past year and half, we have witnessed a wellspring of youth projects starting up: from youth-run collectives, to cooperatives and art projects and it’s been inspiring to see.  At the same time, and partly as a result of this, we have seen the general involvement at the Thistle really lessen, which really makes a lot of sense to us.  There are less youth at drop-ins, fewer active Thistle pods, and folks are feeling pulled among all kinds of rad projects.  In other words, there’s lots going on, and a bunch of it isn’t happening at the Thistle.

This has shown us that perhaps we are no longer needed in the way we were in the past, and have pretty much done our time — after all, everything does end!  And to be honest, we wish more places would end when it’s time — but unfortunately we live in a system that values longevity over thriving; and that aint us.   Our society puts us in competition with other rad, youth-run projects for grants and funding, and we want to celebrate those other projects by closing up and supporting these rad new initiatives.  Youth projects are still flourishing, and doing a bunch of the things that the Thistle has done well in the past.  And some of the new initiatives may very well come out of the Thistle and some of the current collective…

We could also “jump the shark” by turning the Thistle into an institution, or partnering with a few institutions to make us stay open.  In doing so, we could have enough money to keep it going, at least for a while, but we think that’s not right either and that doing that would ultimately undermine the core of what the Thistle was/is: a space run by youth.

To borrow on a Quakers ethos, sometimes you gotta just “lay it down.” That is, to get out of the way so other, more timely projects can sprout.  We are excited to see what will grow in the Thistle’s place when the space closes its doors — and there are a bunch of us who are excited to be part of those conversations!

The facts:

The space is closing April 30th, but a few of the pods will still be going: Lovable, Thistle Institute and one of the the garden projects.  Carla Bergman, with the support of Arts In Action will still be wearing an administrator hat to support youth run projects like DIT (Daughters in Tandem) and ArtQuake, to gain funding and connect to community and so on.

and now for some BIG THANKS!

A tremendously big thank you to Morley Faber, who put up with us in the Mergartroid building for all these years — we sincerely couldn’t have done half of what we accomplished without his support and guidance. Thank you to all our neighbours: in the building, and around the area — it was amazing to share space with you all.  Thank you to Arts In Action, and especially, Selena Couture, Verity Rolfe and Claudine Pommier, for always being open to our far-fetched ideas and for signing a lot of paperwork!  And of course, thank you to the funders who also let us have a lot of autonomy along the way and supported youth liberation– thank you all!

But mostly, we want say thank you to all the youth who trusted this project and jumped in with all your fierce passions and radical dreams– you all should feel incredibly proud!  There are too many to name, but you are all remembered! And a special thank you to all the adults who came in and hung out, offered mentorship, learned more than they gave and were anchors.

Lastly,  for a bunch of us we really got to send the biggest shout out and say the biggest thank you to that first crew of youth: Gen, Cole, Jesse, Keith, Leni, Dan, Maggie, and Lauriel, and of course thank you Matt Hern, for having the vision, the imagination and the courage to create the Thistle.

much gratitude to you all.

Keep in touch:

It’s time to move on, but we will be open for a couple more months and there will be lots to do! so come hang out, make some art, help pack and clean the place! And, before we close the doors to that space, let’s celebrate almost 15 years of a project that created a lot of cool things, most of all community!  We will be in touch soon about the party.

Final words:

The Thistle project was created by a group of friends, and it’ll be amazing to see what a new group of friends will create in its place.  And so, the space may close, but the relationships and the small projects that grew out of the Thistle project will go on. Let’s not have the walls of a space say who we are and let’s not fall into that institutional trap –almost everyone who has been involved in the project is still around; we have us and all the connections we’ve made, all the projects that have blossomed and all the seeds we’ve collectively planted. And that’s a lot.

see you all in the streets and in our homes.

in friendship and liberation,

The Thistle Community


alex, aly, Marly, Savanna, Sylvia, LeyAnn, Niko, Aliza, Durga, Maneo, Manisha, Corin, Zach, Dani and carla

contact: Carla Bergman- director



photo 1(2)

Hey Friends!


Dear community and friends,

we need some support!
like many spaces/projects, we too have been hit pretty hard with cuts to funding (especially this past year), and so we are now looking for ideas and any support you can think of…

please contact carla with your awesome ideas:

OR, if you have any extra money, or know folks who can help out, even 25$, anything, really, will help — you can donate via our paypal /get-involved/donations/

please pass this on, retweet/blog etc.

AND! we are still open for drop in and for folks to use the space and thanks to Opus, we have lots of materials and supplies!!

many thanks!

in liberation and friendship

hangin at an art show.

hangin at an art show.

New and Exciting Plans for the Vernon Site Garden!


hey folks — we are so thrilled to share this amazing news!

Matthew Kemshaw is working with a few folks on one of our garden sites, check it out:

Purple Thistle Vernon Ave Garden

Our goal is to create a low maintenance pollinator garden to be used as a community learning space and habitat corridor.

We envision a thriving garden of perennial herbs and shrubs with open site lines and pleasant sitting areas.

We will host students and staff from a few local youth projects, schools, and collective members at the Purple Thistle.

Our garden is meant to provide bees, birds, plants, humans and other wildlife a place to create together.

For more information contact:

Purple Thistle Vernon Ave Garden Design



Bodies of Knowledge: Establishing Moments of Radical Accessibility and Embodied Learning
Carmen Papalia

This free workshop will unfold over 6 weekly sessions this fall!

When: Starts Tuesday, November 4th 2014 (7:00PM – 9:30PM)
Where: TBD venue in East Vancouver*
Who is it for: Youth! ages 15-30–  other than that, it’s open to everyone/anyone!
there are 10 spots

*We are waiting to confirm the venue
because we hope to meet the access needs of the group. Therefore, those that are interested in participating should be in touch with Carmen Papalia, the workshop facilitator, as soon as possible and before the first meeting to discuss individual access needs and preferences.

**Please be in touch by October, 21st**
You can reach Carmen by phone or email:
Phone: 778.886.0150


This workshop (for youth ages 15 – 30), will establish an open working
space dedicated to the consideration of our agency in public and
institutional settings, and what actions we must take in order to
explode normalcy and realize our potential as embodied learners.
Through a combination of group work and independent studio time,
participants will develop an intentional practice around living and
learning that is informed by their body. With approaches such as:
writing, drawing, performance, sculpture, installation and public
intervention, participants will define a system of access for
themselves that is based in their very subjective perceptions
regarding what is accessible. As an open-sourcing of their own access,
participants will highlight the opportunities for learning and knowing
that come available through the fact of their body. Meetings will
culminate in a series of actions that will address, claim, interrupt,
antagonize and heal the space between ourselves and the systems that
we choose to participate in—a gesture that will contribute to a
productive understanding of accessibility.


Imagine, for a moment, that you are a visual learner and that all the
Instagram photos on your feed are soundscapes. You try to view one of
them but it seems murky and unknowable as you listen. You think to ask
one of your illustrator friends to translate it into an engaging visualization and you hope they will oblige. You probably want to ask an artist whose aesthetic is in line with your own artistic sensibility and who can make the content come alive with their craft.
You probably don’t want to ask an artist who will abstract the content
even further from the original, because then you’d have to negotiate
the space between the original and the abstracted translation—when all
you wanted to do was know what the heck your friend posted on
FaceBook! Such an abstraction might be suitable as a creative response
to your friend’s post but it would not provide you with the same ease
of access that your friends are so lucky to have. But then again it
would be different an the same thing at once. It would be a hybrid in
terms of genre and meaning—something that uniquely reflects the way
you learn.
Although we don’t often acknowledge it, our FaceBook communities are
full of all sorts of different kinds of learners—as are the
non-virtual communities that we are part of. As are the communities
that organize in cities, as are the communities that organize in
schools, as are the communities that organize in museums. We are
surrounded, at any given moment, with others that don’t learn the way
we do. But how do we nurture the ways in which we learn and how can we
make sure that the bodies of knowledge that we have access to from our
unique position are not subjugated by the dominant and oppressive
systems within which we participate? We define our access needs and
preferences so accessibility can be realized as an open cultural
practice through which we can claim the support that will empower us
to thrive!

Thank you and I look forward to working with you.


attached is a photo by Sylvia from our program at the VAG and the
description is:
A person wearing a denim vest with an image of Frida Kahlo on it sits
on a hardwood surface in a museum as they describe a contemporary
photograph to a young person who is crouching and holding a white
mobility cane. Both the describer and the listener hold the stanchion
barrier that is meant to distance the viewer from the art work while
the young person’s caregiver watches from a distance.

photo by Sylvia Bo Bilvia


See for Yourself-2012-museum tour-duration varies-image by Sylvia McFadden, courtesey of the Purple Thistle Center (2)

Foraging Workshop with Camille!

Wednesday September 24th 2014 from noon-3, Camille will be taking us on a rad tour of the east van area, sharing her mad skills in foraging and plant identification!! 

Join us for this FREE workshop, and learn how to find food in the most unique places.

Camille says:

“I was a strange child. I loved mushrooms since I was a baby- not so much eating them, but rather the vibrant colours and shapes they manifested in. I grew up on acreage in South Surrey so was always mucking around in the bush, but mushrooms are what drew me into the world of collecting and identifying wild things. I also grew up gardening and my mother taught the names of plants, while my dad instilled an ethic of working with and for food. Although there was inspiration to forage everywhere I looked, the skill is self-taught, DIY, and continuously growing.
Mainly, I will probably be answering questions- that is what I have found the most interactive and efficient learning module. Besides that, I will be talking about food: how it is manufactured, and how eating the weeds is such an important part of responding to our harmful monocrop culture. Also, a fun topic is how foraging is also kind of like scavenging, and that people are either fascinated or pissed off by it. I like to use the crow as a figure in teaching us how people may view the scavenger. Of course, I want to give everyone a few hints on how to better identify plants and the families to which they belong. The point is to encourage people to take food security into their own hands. “
Here’s a link to Camille’s blog:
This sounds so awesome to me, I hope to see you there!!



Our First Collective Meeting for Fall 2014 will be Monday, September 22nd at 7 pm! youth (15-25) welcome! come join the collective, or just hang out.


Youngunz!!! 2014/15 session

The Purple Thistle Centre will be holding space for their infamous
Youngunz Program between September 28th to May 31st, 2014.

If you are between the ages of 10 – 14 (ish) or know anyone who is in
that age group who would like to hang out once a week for a couple
hours to make, break, learn, forget and create a smattering of arty
projects, this may be right up your alley!

Youngunz is a weekly 2 hour workshop (some may be longer, ie full
days*) aiming to match the groups interests with clever mentors from
the art world who are excited to share their passion and skills with
us. This is not a drop in program and due to space limitations a
maximum of 12 people will be admitted…however, a waitlist can be
created if need be.

The Nuts and Bolts

The Time: Sunday afternoons 2 – 4
btw Sept. 28th – May 31st

The Place: The Purple Thistle (although we may venture out on occasion
but will always keep you informed)

The Cost: Sliding scale between 40 – 60 $/mo (covers the once a week 2
hour sessions*, mentors, food and supplies)

How to pay?

1) at the beginning of each month (cash or cheque)
2) one cheque for the entire duration
3) post dated cheques

cheques payable to The Purple Thistle Centre

Contacts: Anita Olson;

* costs may be added on for full day workshops


The Thistle Strike Solidarity Camp!



The Thistle collective is thrilled to announce the solidarity* camp for folks needing a place to be during the Teacher Strike.

*we stand in full solidarity with the teachers, kids and families


Free and for kids ages 5-13**

Due to our capacity (space and other resources) we have limited space so please do email: to secure a spot!

Below is our schedule for now (more days will be added next week).

Contact us at any time for further information.

each day we will offer open space/hangout time and lots of art supplies, plus specific workshops held by stellar facilitators.

  • Wednesday, September 3: 9am-3 pm

Fibre Arts (felting, etc)

  • Thursday, September 4: 9am-3pm

Screen printing
garden work
and other visual art mediums

  • Friday, September 5: 9am-3pm

Zine making

  • Monday, September 8: 9am-3pm

 crafting and art making (details to come)

screen printing.

Please bring lunch and a snack

Location: 260-975 Vernon Drive (corner of Parker and Vernon). Check out our website for further information about the Thistle and access info.

** Age is negotiable — please check in with us if you are over 13 and want to attend.