On July 9th, our 10th anniversary, I arrived back from a month leave to an immaculately clean studio, and an oversized note from my co-workers:
Welcome back Sheila!
We missed you while you were gone, but we know you were taking LIFE GIVING TIME OFF. Your Mac-y went to the Doctor’s and is now 7 TIMES FASTER! The external has your back-up and old hard-drive is under it.
Also, this banana plant is something for you to bring home so you feel like you’re always on vacay!
Lots of love,
Nat, LJ, Jenny, Anabel
My time away was life-giving—I got married in the company of these dear friends, went on a vacation, and spent the rest of my time off relaxing, visiting the water, and nourishing my home. Still, I missed the studio. Returning back to this space—greeted with such kindness, friendship and thoughtfulness—felt equally life-giving. I was hit with a wave of gratitude, love, and abundance—which felt especially meaningful on the 10th year since I made it all official.
When I think about how to tell the story of Ten Years of The Public, I feel lost. There are so many different ways of telling it: a story about Toronto neighbourhoods, from our first “office” in my closet on Crawford St. to our current storefront home on Lansdowne; a story of growth, from one employee working on two projects, to five, working on hundreds over the years; a story of ideological and political growth, from thinking that our role was to bring design to activist communities, to finding our role in facilitating and honouring the existing forms creative resistance that already thrive there.
There is so much growth found here, but as I reflect on this milestone, I don't think that our story is best told through the lens of change, but rather, through the lens of what's stayed the same. I keep coming back to that note that greeted me when I returned from my leave, and I realise that our story is about the things that have and will sustain us, even in the darkest of times: love and care.
At The Public, this is practiced through our approach and dedication to our work, our deep relationships with each other and with our clients, and through the sense of expansiveness, optimism, and possibility that we bring to each of our creative interventions.
The practice of love and care here, and the fostering of communities of care beyond these walls, has taught me that we can re-imagine the spaces in which we create and our relationships with the clients and communities with whom we work. I've learned that we can create beauty and a feeling of abundance even in times of incredible scarcity. I've learned that we can engage in processes of healing, transformation, and radical imagination through art and design. We can expect more. We can be our whole selves wherever we are and in everything we do. We can dream of a better world, and we can create it.
The Public is an activist design studio specializing in changing the world. It’s a big tagline for a tiny group of friends, but I do believe that what we create, and, just as importantly, how we create, from a place of love and care, alongside, and with deep respect and admiration for our communities, in ways that empower and inspire, can and does change the world. It’s definitely changed mine.
I'm looking forward to revealing more of this story to you throughout our tenth year. In August, we'll be launching a brand new website that better reflects who we are, what we do, and why. Starting in September, we'll be sending out monthly reflections: interviews with and writing from our clients, past and present co-workers, artists, and community members that talk about the transformative impact of our collaborative work. We are doing this as a way to open our doors, share our story through many voices, and to thank you for your part in creating and contributing to this community.
With love and care,