Cityzen Studios debuts in Waterloo

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Cityzen Studios hosted its second pop-up event of the year on Sept. 24. Krysta Traianovski, Executive director of Cityzen Studios, explained the purpose of the event.

“Cityzen Studios is a community hub where people can gather, meet and rent equipment for digital media, culinary arts and more.  We felt like the City of Waterloo — and cities in general — were lacking this kind of open public space that could function across different purposes.  Where would you go to meet new people, try new things, or try your hand at the beginnings of a new hobby or career?  We thought the “anti-Starbucks” model would be appreciated by people — it’s not an environment where you rush into, claim your seat and leave after the baristas start to stare you down.  We wanted to create a space that was for the community benefit, but one that had a sustainable business model to back it,” Traianovski said. 

 “[There was] a healthy cooking workshop with chef Jody O’Malley from The Culinary Studio in Kitchener, improv with the UW Improv Club, musical improv with Linna Zheng from Wildfire, a K-pop dancing workshop, a belly dancing workshop with Ishra Blanco from Invoketress Dance, an entrepreneurship mixer, and finally an evening jazz concert featuring local jazz musicians TMJazz, Derek Hines, and Jason White.  We even had photographers from the UW Photography Club come out and take pictures.”  Traianovski said.

Traianovski reflected on the name of her start-up, commenting that, “The name actually took us a whole week to come up with,”  adding, “We stylized the name with a ‘y’ not only to give distinctiveness, but also to instill the meaning that through our venue you could really connect to your city and the people in it in a personal way.”

Traianovski hopes to attract university students to her new community space, pointing out that “Cityzen Studios is enhancing community belonging by providing the physical space and the activities that can act as a catalyst for interaction. In the Kitchener-Waterloo Community Foundation’s report on belonging, they found that people who are in transition (starting school, a new job, a family, retiring, graduating, etc) are highly susceptible to feeling a lowered sense of belonging.  This is because the networks they previously relied on are either lessened or less relevant to their current situation.  We are creating a place where people have an opportunity to build social capital (finding personal or professional relationships) as well as economic capital (by sharing and selling their skills) … University students are a special group because they can provide a great base of experience and volunteer to share their talents with the community.  Often we find that people in the universities’ clubs and societies are a source of people who are passionate about sharing their craft and skills, and they can bring this enthusiasm to the larger community.”

Traianovski, a recent graduate of UW’s Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) program, with a Bachelor of Science degree from UW, said she had been involved in the local entrepreneurship community since her last co-op term where she worked at Medella Health, a local start-up.   Traianovski said, “My experiences with co-op, UW Toastmasters club, and the entrepreneurship community helped me to gain the confidence and vision I wanted for society.  Then I went to the Master’s degree to gain the practical business knowledge I needed and to develop the network in the community who could support the vision.”

Asked to explain how Cityzen Studios is enhancing social and economic opportunities in Waterloo Region, Traianovski said, “We are enhancing social opportunities by providing an alternative “third space” where people can interact beyond just home and work or school. Through experiences of making and producing things with other people, memories are made and bonds are formed that can last a lifetime.  Our idea is that by being an accessible, welcoming and flexible space, people will be able to find what they need.  In this same sense, we can also provide economic opportunity because we become a physical marketplace for people to test business concepts and start to exchange their skills and teach in exchange for money.  They can start to develop their craft all the way from a hobbyist to a professional.”

Traianovski confirmed that there are plans to have another pop-up event around the end of October.   “You have the opportunity to build a great future with the help of your community — so reach out and find who you can help and who can help you,” Traianovski said.

Saturday’s event participants seemed to agree that a new type of community space was a good idea.  Dianne Dougherty, a Waterloo resident who came out to the dance workshops, said that the atmosphere “was very welcoming and responsive” and that she thoroughly enjoyed the experience of learning something new and the opportunity to meet some university students.  Bharat Venkitesh, a UW graduate student in electrical and computer engineering, thought the workshops were “a good idea” and said that the events allowed him to “make some new connections.”  Venkitesh also said that he enjoyed the live jazz music which “was not just like a typical concert, you could actually interact with the musicians and ask them questions, and at the same time enjoy the music.”

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