Edmonton Economic Development Corporation

Edmonton Economic Development Corporation

August 20, 2012 13:38 ET

Edmonton Economic Development Corporation: Revolutionary Festivals

EDMONTON, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - Aug. 20, 2012) - The French artist Paul Cézanne once said, "The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution."

He could not have predicted the strange power of his sentence - who or what it might inspire. Cézanne died in 1906, when the City of Edmonton was only two years old. One hundred years later, in 2006, a coffeehouse opened on Alberta Avenue with his words on the wall. The coffeehouse, run as a community co-op, is called The Carrot.

In the 1930s, Alberta Avenue (118th Avenue) was a year-round playground and main street north of downtown. The shops and clubs and skating rinks hummed with crowds and creativity. By the 1960s it was a wild neighbourhood, home of one of the city's top jazzclubs, where Edmonton's legendary pianist and recently-retired senator Tommy Banks played some of his early gigs.

The middle-class shift to the suburbs had begun, and within ten years the Avenue would decline. By the early 2000s, it was one of the roughest corners of the city, despite the authentic bones of the frontier-town mainstreet that characterized its architecture.

Then, in 2006, a theatre artist and community organizer decided to take Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, up on his ideas. If art and culture could transform a neighbourhood, or a city, she wanted in on it. Christy Morin lived just off Alberta Avenue with her family and she wasn't keen to leave. She launched an initiative called Arts on the Ave, and an event called the Kaleido Family Arts Festival.

The festival is multidisciplinary, unbounded, and free. Hundreds of artists live in the neighbourhood or nearby, because it's mature, close to downtown, and cheap. Morin saw them as a resource, and invited them to collaborate with First Nations artists and with those from new immigrant communities.

Edmonton's mayor, Stephen Mandel, saw the potential in what Morin was doing. Soon, Alberta Avenue became an incubator. The Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival had transformed Old Strathcona. Maybe Arts on the Ave could do the same for Morin's neighbourhood.

Seven years later, you can see and feel the change. The sidewalks and many of the storefronts are a meeting place between modern and contemporary. Organizations like the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts have relocated to "The Ave." The festival itself is devoted to experimentation: you'll see shows on rooftops and exhibitions in back alleys, in playgrounds and on sidewalks, in historic and new buildings, all in a mash-up of ethnic restaurants, groceries, and specialty stores, Edmonton's United Nations. It's different every year and always a thrill - from the lantern parade on Friday night to the closing performance on Sunday. Actors brush against acrobats and dancers and musicians of every genre.

This year, the seventh edition, will be September 7 to 9. Freshly observed, it has set off a neighbourhood revolution.

A few weeks later, downtown and in Old Strathcona, the northernmost and strangest stop on the Canadian circuit, the Edmonton International Film Festival (EIFF), launches on the 28th.

It grew out of Local Heroes, a springtime film event that focused on Edmonton artists. The EIFF brought a global flavour to the city's premiere film festival while maintaining the funky local quality - celebrating Edmonton's artists. It's more like cult director John Waters than Stephen Spielberg but, frankly, so is Edmonton.

Waters has been to EIFF to premiere new work, along with directors like Werner Herzog, Deepa Mehta, Don McKellar and Norman Jewison. It's helped launch local stars like Trevor Anderson, whose eerie and emotional short film, The High Level Bridge, was a global sensation in 2011.

This year's entries have come from neighbourhoods all over the world: United Arab Emirates, India, Western and Northern Europe, South America, Asia and Australia, Trinidad and Tobago and, of course, Alberta Avenue.

Contact Information

  • Edmonton Economic Development Corporation
    Renee Worrell
    Communications Manager External Relations
    780.932.4865
    rworrell@edmonton.com