“It’s an exploratory adventure,” says Sofia Fortin, one of the masterminds behind the
currently ongoing SMRT Pop Ups initiative at Rah Rah Gallery.
“A bunch of us were getting together to talk politics, talk shop,” she says. “An opportunity as young professionals to share what we’ve been learning. It turned into random acts of volunteering.”
The group, which includes Steve Roddick, Selene Vakharia, Luke DeCoste, and Ben Sanders, began by doing some volunteer fundraising for the Potluck Food Co-op.
“We spent two hours calling their membership, raised them a bunch of money,” says Fortin. With Rah Rah, they came across an opportunity to use the space.
“We seized it,” says Fortin.
The team, which is made up of people with diverse professional backgrounds ranging from communications and management consulting to economic development, are lending some of their expertise to support Rah Rah behind the scenes.
But the focus is on small pop-up events.
“It’s a way to help Rah Rah market and showcase the space,” says Fortin, “but it’s really an explorative thing…changing everyday.”
“It’s an opportunity for each of us to try out new things,” she says.
The SMRT Pop Ups name came about naturally, when the group noticed the kind of events they were interested in putting on all had some kind of educational bent.
“Yes it’s about drinking and entertainment,” Fortin says, “but there’s healthy content there.”
I was lucky to attend their first event, Drunk Lectures, which had filled Rah Rah to capcity: they actually had to turn people away.
Eight locals took the mic and lectured on whatever topic they felt they had some level of expertise or interest in, and were encouraged to drink abundantly before appearing on stage.
“We sold out to capacity, didn’t even know what to do with ourselves,” says Fortin. “There’s learning there. None of us have run events before.”
And that space for learning is a big part of what SMRT Pop Ups is all about.
“We’re hosting our own events,” says Fortin. “And also inviting people to host their own.”
Normally someone interested in hosting an event would have to pay to rent the space, pay for a bartender, and for Rah Rah staff to act as keyholders.
But the SMRT Pop Ups team is volunteering their time for all that instead.
“Putting on an event can be a risky thing,” says Fortin. “Here people can have a bit of a team support them.
“It’s a space to try out your idea, test run it.”
For example, there is a rumoured Thai food night in the works. Someone with a knack and passion for cooking Thai will be using the space to test serving their dishes to a large group of customers — very different from jumping into opening a restaurant.
“People get to experiment with something as a pop-up,” Fortin says.
Upcoming events include The Big Ethics Smack Down on February 10, and How to be a Grown Ass Woman: Taking Care of Yourself like a Boss on February 8.
All events can be found on SMRT Pop Ups Facebook page, which will be updated regularly.
If you have an idea for your own event, feel free to email the team at [email protected]
“It’s a collective collaborative space,” says Fortin, “to make cool things happen.”