Sunday, October 08, 2006

Thank You - Arts on the Avenue

This is Thanksgiving so you will not be surprised that you will not be reading my usual politically oriented post.

We Albertans live abundant lives, not all of us but that is true for most of us. We have lots to be thankful for. Yesterday I had little time to reflect on Thanksgiving but I did on this Sunday morning. I have all of the ususal thoughts of giving thanks but yesterday was special and filled me with feelings of hope and optimism - as well as for giving thanks.

Yesterday in a small part of Edmonton along 118 Ave (“The Ave”), bordering the north side of the city core, a minor miracle happened. A locally produced one day eclectic arts festival happened…Arts on the Avenue. It brought together dancers, painters actors, musicians and artisans to show their talents and to make a statement. That statement was about the rejuvenation of a community that has, euphemistically speaking; “seen better days.”

There is an abundance of Cultural Creatives that live in The Ave area. They were joined by other artists who have recently befriended The Ave and who also caught the spirit of the place - especially yesterday. They came from around the city with their friends and families and spent the day to enjoy, to perform, to participate and to celebrate. What they created was a connection amongst themselves and they reaffirmed the sense of community on The Ave. What they enabled, experienced and expressed was the creative power of art and culture to renew the sense of hope in a community.

I was there for the day as part of our work at Cambridge Strategies Inc. for the City of Edmonton on the revitalization of the 118 Ave from NAIT to Northlands. It felt so much like my experience in the early days of The Fringe…I was there too. I remember well the feeling in Old Strathcona and on Whyte Avenue at the time of Alberta’s 75th Anniversary celebrations. We enabled a few actors, on very short notice, to essentially perform audition pieces to small audiences. We knew then “we were really on to something.” That early effort quickly morphed into the Edmonton International Fringe Festival. That event grew and then morphed into a North American wide Fringe Festival movement that thrives today.

I felt that feeling that “we are really on to something” again yesterday at Arts on the Avenue. Yesterday was authentic and eclectic with a well produced and very professional line up of talent. In that way it was much more than the early Fringe days. It was genuine, energetic and unpretentious and just brimming with talent and potential. In that way it was totally aligned with the early Fringe Festival days.

Volunteers are tough to find in the overly committed and complex life styles we seem to live these days. But they came out of there homes yesterday and did all the Joe Jobs with a smile and got caught up in the sense of what was happening. That added to the rays of hope that the Arts on the Avenue brought to all those who worked on it so hard, and against such odds, to make this happen.

So on a day that started out cold and grey and drizzling, that evolved, emerging as a sunny crisp fall afternoon. It ended with a clear night sky and a full moon. Everyone gathered around a huge bon fire to warm the body. They were good people working together and accomplishing much that warmed the heart. To warm the soul they enjoyed an outdoor concert by Captain Tractor, who merely had to walk across the neighbourhood park to perform.

There is meaning here. The people who made this event happen are tired today and there is still clean up and lots to do. But they know that yesterday was the start of something good. Something very positive happened yesterday on 118 Avenue. Something that augers well for the future of The Ave and the neighbouring communities as a place to work, live and raise a family. They too are “really on to something!” Thanks to the people of Arts on the Avenue for letting me be part of it.