Part community centre, part alternative school, The Academy of the Impossible offers its students a DIY education.
Wearing a crisp white shirt and wide-legged black pants, Steven Seagal nimbly evaded his opponent and tossed him to the ground—a tough lesson in the art of aikido.
That was the scene last Friday night inside a newly-built brick building in the Junction Triangle, where a few dozen people mingled as the ’80s action-movie star—or at least an image of him projected onto a cinderblock wall—executed his moves. It was the “academy-warming” party for the Academy of the Impossible, a 1,400-square-foot storefront facility at 231 Wallace that’s planned to be equal parts community centre and alternative school—there will be classes in first-aid, multi-media and aikido (hence the Seagal video). Plus, aikido’s emphasis on defusing, rather than escalating, conflicts is perfect for the Academy (though director/instructor Josh Hehner admits Seagal isn’t the best ambassador).
The idea for the Academy grew out of the Parkdale Street Writers, a youth group and writing workshop run by Toronto author Emily Pohl-Weary. She says the Academy’s goal is to expand on that group and others like it, creating a space where “students teach themselves and teach each other”—in other words, anyone with a desire to teach will be encouraged to, in any discipline they like. The Academy’s classes will start in late December or January.
As of Friday, the place felt like they’d barely pulled the curtain back. The walls were freshly painted and the space smelled of sawdust. After giving some brief remarks, operations manager Irfan Ali, who tentatively identified himself as a poet, accidentally bumped a light switch, and the place went black. The party then spent a few minutes in the dark—we were told the fluorescent lights couldn’t be turned back on until they’d fully cooled, because it’s more energy efficient, and energy conservation is a priority at the Academy of the Impossible.
No big deal, suggested Pohl-Weary: “It’s cozy like this.”