The Academy of the Impossible
The Academy of the Impossible is a peer to peer lifelong learning facility, founded in 2011 by Jesse Hirsh and Emily Pohl-Weary.

For our first two years the Academy was located at 231 Wallace Avenue in Toronto. As of December 2013 the Academy has been embracing the mobile nature of our times and constantly seeking new places and locations to assemble smart people.

While we greatly enjoyed having a physical location, we found that conversations that happen in the same space tend to repeat themselves. Rather the Academy was created to encourage new narratives shared by new voices, and we've discovered this also means new spaces and places.

The Academy organizes workshops, events, and experiences that push the boundaries of education and seek new methods of generating and sharing knowledge.

At its core, the Academy of the Impossible is an incubator for literacy. Technological literacy. Media literacy. Physical literacy. Critical literacy. Structural literacy. Persuasive literacy.

It is a workshop filled with technological, human, and conceptual tools that allow for the construction or deconstruction of ideas. If you choose to leverage these resources for a specific goal or product, you can work as fast or as slow as you wish, start as big or as small as you like, and share your outcomes with others or celebrate them privately.

The concept is obvious but unique: casting the fluidity of open-source development and collaborative engagement into the constraints of a knowledge economy. Writers work with programmers. Rappers coach pundits. Photographers talk politics while they learn self-defence.

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Smart People
Smart Discussions
Smart Games
Smart Politics

Past Programs

Hacking Reality: Tactical Technology and Social Media

Coordinated by Jesse Hirsh

Tactical technology, social media, and entrepreneurialism programs will be offered in conjunction with the ongoing efforts of the Metaviews think tank. Associates and experts will join the group to lead workshops on specialized topics, including YouTube Engagement, Role Playing Games, Investigative Journalism, Improvisational Theatre, and Multimedia Production.

Toronto Street Writers: A Free Writing Group

Coordinated by Emily Pohl-Weary

Founded in 2008, the program caters to a diverse group of 16-to-29-year-old poets, musicians, novelists, filmmakers, artists, and playwrights who work with established writers from the community to learn about writing, generate careers in the arts, and use writing as therapy to overcome complex life challenges. Participants learn self-expression, literacy skills, and develop strategies for their careers. Perhaps most importantly, they become part of a community that will help them overcome their personal challenges and a space that they can consider safe no matter who they are.

Sound Poets' Circle

Facilitated by Rosina Kazi and Nic Murr (), Mindbender Supreme and The Grimace

Sound Poets' Circle is a free hip-hop and spoken word workshop series for youth ages 16-29 on Monday evenings. This workshop focuses on creating and recording sound and music, writing hip hop lyrics and spoken-word poetry. It's a "use what you got to get what you want" program to inspire group participation, creativity and resistance through art. Participants work with established and emerging facilitators and artists. Space is limited. To join, must register:

Getting Paid in the Knowledge Economy

Coordinated by Jesse Hirsh

This is a course on how to get others to value your knowledge and pay you for it. The knowledge economy remains a nebulous concept, which makes getting paid in said economy even more difficult. Yet there are growing numbers of people who are getting paid, and not always for the right reasons. In this course we discuss what the knowledge economy is, who some of the players are, what they do to get paid, and what you can do too.

Impossible Words

Curated by Emily Pohl-Weary

Impossible Words is a unique literary salon that presents culturally and stylistically diverse Canadian writers in conversation with young writers from the Toronto Street Writers. Our events are open to the public and free. They take place two Saturdays each month from 1:30 pm to 3:30. They are a great "entry event" to check out the Academy for people who might be shy. Join us!

Self-Defense and Social Change

Coordinated by Josh Hehner

This program will focus on synthesizing the principles and philosophies of Aikido, a peace-oriented martial art, with the larger social and political movements of activism and social change. We will explore topics including: nonviolent self-defense (Aikido & defensive Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) and emergency medicine (First Aid and Street Medic practice). The program is led by Josh Hehner, paramedic, humanitarian worker and martial arts instructor, and will begin with self-defense classes and by hosting monthly public skills sharing fora with the Toronto Street Medics.

Fright Film Academy

Coordinated by Jonathan Culp and Impossible Arts

Fright Film Academy is a free weekly video production workshop for aspiring filmmakers who love scary stories.

We've all had nightmares when we're asleep - some of us have lived through them. Learn how to turn your personal visions into movies. During 14 weeks of Tuesday evening classes, you’ll learn how to write, storyboard, perform, direct, score, shoot and edit a short video, assisted by video artist Jonathan Culp and a team of experts! Must pre-register via

Law School

Coordinated by Melissa Reiter

Laws impact every aspect of our existence but legal education is rarely accessible (or interesting!). Law School is about bringing legal concepts and principles into functional use: about making legal education interesting and applicable to real life situations.

Led by Melissa Reiter this course will cover practical topics like starting a business or non-profit organization, charter rights like freedom of expression & freedom of the person, provide a practical guide for dealing with common legal issues and teach you to negotiate like a pro in any situation.

Art Exhibits

Coordinated by Kalpna Patel

We welcome submissions from visual artists, photographers, curators, galleries and multi-media artists from all walks of life who want to engage with arts enthusiasts.

Writing Is a Business

Coordinated by Edward Keenan

Many writers, even those working at it full time, are utterly lost when it comes to figuring out how to profitably run a writing business. Most writers, it seems, chose the trade because they consider concepts like “running a business” to be foreign, or even kind of gross. But if you are working as a writer today, you pretty much need to run a business if you are fond of concepts like “eating” and “paying the rent.”

Academy Poster
"A new academy where young people can learn from and network with professionals from a variety of fields." - Lily Ames, CBC Radio segment

"It's radical, in the sense of transformative, yet conservative, in the sense of preservative. And it worked." - Rick Salutin, Toronto Star

"Part community centre, part alternative school, the Academy of the Impossible offers its students a DIY education." - Stephen Spencer Davis, The Grid

"Learning in this school is just like on the internet, where bits of data are exchanged peer-to-peer." - Joshua Errett, Now Magazine

"The impossible dream - like that recurring one where you're a skilled hacker who not only knows how to kick some serious butt, but can also throw down some killer beats - isn't all that far from reality when you're a student at Parkdale's Academy of the Impossible." - Brianne Hogan, Post City

"The plan is to create a permanent space for the Street Writers, but also something much broader. Pohl-Weary and the rest of her faculty want to build a transparent, inviting environment, run by a community where people can learn whatever perks their interest and in the process, teach valuable lessons in activism, community leadership, and self confidence." - Luke Champion, Blog T.O.

"Pohl-Weary describes the model for the school as collaborative: 'The people who use it will be creators and shapers. It more like a conversation, or a learning network, than a lecture.'" - Edward Keenan, Yonge Street Media

"Pohl-Weary likens the Academy, with its open-source approach, to a real-life internet-one where people from different backgrounds and interests can share knowledge, connect, and get out of their respective bubbles." - Bronwyn Kienapple, Torontoist

"'It's a place where you get a lot, but you also give back and you're learning just as much when you give back," said Pohl-Weary. The academy is an extension of sorts of the Toronto Street Writers, which Parkdale-native Pohl-Weary helped create. The author wanted a place for its writers to become leaders in their own right. It's a place that's been referred to as an 'open source community space.'" - Lisa Rainford, Inside Toronto