FIMS proposals for 450 Talbot accepted

Photo of the grey brick building at 450 Talbot Street in downtown LondonIn October 2021, Western purchased a building at 450 Talbot Street in downtown London to expand the university’s presence in the downtown core and better connect the campus to the city and the community. This initiative is aligned with commitments made in Western’s most recent strategic plan, Towards Western at 150. Over 17 proposals were submitted from across campus for ideas on what to do with the 30,000 square ft space. FIMS is connected to two of the proposals – FIMS Proposal for the Western Community Studio, 450 Talbot Street and Community Engaged Learning Hub at 450 Talbot St. – and both have been accepted as part of the space's long-term plans. The building is expected to open in September 2023.

FIMS Proposal for the Western Community Studio

A proposal put forward for a FIMS/Western Community Studio to be built at 450 Talbot Street was submitted by Dean Lisa Henderson with support from full-time faculty Melissa Adler and Joanna Redden, and an additional 20 colleagues in FIMS. The proposed Community Studio features a 2,800 square ft space that includes an open workshop area for students to meet, talk, write, share ideas, and exhibit work in a space that supports a range of media and expressive modes. A video commons area could include a streamlined audio-visual set up with lighting, a mobile camera/tripod, microphone and audio control, an edit station, a smooth floor, VR capacity, streaming capacity, and video monitors connected to building servers. Together, the workshop and the video commons will offer new, enriched options for undergraduate and graduate courses in FIMS, and will invite connection and co-production between members of the Western and London communities through workshops, programming, events and performances.

This proposal envisions the 450 Talbot Building as a collaborative space, living with other proposed projects where resources and areas like the video commons can be shared to make for a lively, buzzing, sociable use of the building. The Community Studio will be an important resource for FIMS as the Faculty continues to develop curriculum. It is an important space in which relationships and interdisciplinary initiatives can flourish and will provide space for knowledge and skills exchanges between scholars, community partners, leaders and students.

Proposal for a Community Engaged Learning Hub

The proposal for a Community Engaged Learning (CEL) Hub was jointly submitted by a collective of Western units including Student Experience, the Don Wright Faculty of Music, the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and FIMS. Full-time faculty Sandra Smeltzer and Basil Chiasson were key proposal leads for FIMS, with assistance from numerous colleagues. The CEL Hub will support collaboration between Western students and partners from non-profit and community-based organizations. Projects and initiatives will strive for mutually beneficial outcomes and will bring student learning to life by taking experiential learning activities off campus and into the downtown community. The proposed space features options for lectures, workshops, symposiums and events, could include an interactive display directory showcasing the network of CEL relationships between Western and the London community. New classroom space for CEL courses such as MIT 4101: Community Engagement and Media Studies, office space and a boardroom to host meetings, and a community café with a computer to access Western Libraries materials would add to the value.

Once realized, the CEL Hub will support student learning (with a focus on experiential learning), provide new scholarship and research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, showcase Western’s academic success and research, welcome interdisciplinary collaborations across faculties and units, and provide services and opportunities to the Greater London community. With the ongoing negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the non-profit sector - dwindling resources compounded by increased needs in our local communities and staff/volunteer burnout/illness - the CEL Hub will be an especially important physical and collaborative resource that can support the efforts of local non-profits and enhance Western’s commitment to the London community.