Anne Stevenson Interview

GETTING TO KNOW O-DAY’MIN’S NEW CITY COUNCILLOR

Meet Anne Stevenson, O-day’min’s newest representative. She’s part of a history-making municipal election that saw eight women elected to City Council.

Stevenson beat out nine other candidates after receiving endorsements from outgoing Mayor Don Iveson and incumbent councillor Scott McKeen. A resident of Oliver, a former city planner, and a new mom, Stevenson will represent O-day’min, named for the Anishinaabe word for strawberry or heart-berry.

Q: How will your background in urban planning help you make decisions on City Council?

A: A lot of the decisions that City Council makes are land-use related. I’m excited to be able to bring that lens in terms of those choices. I think it’s also having a solid sense of the city plan, really understanding that document and how we implement it decision by decision. I’m excited to be at the table to see the vision and the goals and the policy, and to see the city plan come to life through the individual decisions that we make on City Council.

Q: What are some things you hope to accomplish?

A: Just today I was talking about the revitalization of Downtown. Certainly, working to support the businesses here, and the great initiatives happening through the Downtown Edmonton Community League and the Downtown Business Association as well.

Housing and homelessness is absolutely a huge priority for me. I think there’s been some great work done and there’s a number of policy shifts, certain different ways of approaching the resources that we’re already deploying, to be even more effective at addressing housing and homelessness.

Also, continuing to lobby the other orders of government to ensure that we’re getting the funding and the supports that we need. A lot of downtown businesses are asking for permanent supportive housing, and I think that’s something that we can really do—and received such a strong mandate for [when campaigning]. Easily two-thirds of people that I spoke to, when asked what their top issue was, it was housing and homelessness.

A third thing would absolutely be around how we think of and how we fund community safety and wellness. We have a great roadmap through the Community Safety and Well-Being Task Force report. I’m committed to ensuring that those recommendations are implemented. And continuing to advance reconciliation and anti-racism initiatives are huge priorities as well.

Climate change is obviously a key one. We can make a lot of difference through our land use and transportation decisions. Something that I’d like to see for our next four-year budgeting process, which happens next November, is to be sure we implement a carbon budgeting system, so that we have a way of tracking and measuring our progress to get to net zero as a city and to ensure that we stay within our budget.

Q: What are some of the unique challenges facing your ward?

A:

Homelessness is a very visible issue in our community across the ward. I was just blown away by folks understanding the complexity of that.

Most people, even when they’re expressing frustration about petty theft or disruption, recognize that the solution is permanent supportive housing. It’s definitely a challenge for our community but a great opportunity as well, to come together and tackle that issue.

The revitalization of Downtown is unique to our area just given the office-worker employment density of the area. We face a challenge, not just in rebuilding the vibrancy back to what it was but doing so in a fundamentally different environment, where we won’t necessarily have the same office capacity that we did before. It provides us with an opportunity to address an issue that has always been apparent Downtown, which is that we didn’t have enough of a residential base. This gives us an opportunity to add more residential units through conversion of existing office buildings into residential units.

I’m such a Pollyanna sometimes but I see more of the opportunities than the challenges. We have a great active transportation network in terms of our bike lanes, multi-use trails through the River Valley, the LRT expansion, bus routes, but there are a lot of missing links. It’s always a lot of fine-tuning those pieces, continuing to support our business areas: High Street, 124th Street and 107th Avenue, and Chinatown. Those are big challenges, and it links into some of that both real and perceived sense of a lack of safety downtown. I think there’s been a loss of confidence in downtown and the core, so rebuilding and attracting people back to the area.

Q: One of your priorities is championing changes that support the 15-minute city. What does that mean and how will you support that?

A: The 15-minute city is about building the type of city where we can live our daily lives with the least amount of travel time or the least amount of friction when going about meeting our daily needs.

A lot of the pieces are there for many of us living in O-day’min but it’s really filling in those gaps. Riverdale is an interesting example. Previously, there was nowhere to meet needs in terms of a café, restaurant, or bakery. We’re starting to see some of that happen through Little Brick and now Dog Patch. To me, those are real examples of retrofitting communities to have the 15-minute city amenities.

Q: Is there anything else that people should know about you?

A: There’s this analogy that I heard one time about city planning. Someone described it as a jazz band. You have the rhythm section and the soloists. The rhythm section is those basics—the core things that we need every day. Then you have the soloists, which are flashy and exciting. I see myself as a rhythm section-type person. I want to be sure that the city is getting a strong foundation to allow our phenomenal community groups, our amazing businesses, our amazing civil society to really shine. I want to be focused on supporting those people and I really look forward to connecting with the community in the coming years.

Anne’s Fast Favourites

Favourite …
Place to get a beverage? Coffee Bureau or Cavern
Edmonton landmark? High Level Bridge and the River Valley. And City Hall is a beautiful building
Way to relax? Reading, camping, and getting outdoors
Podcasts? Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend and BBC Radio Desert Island Discs
Show to stream? Parks and Recreation
Spot in O-Day’min? Paul Kane Park and Oliver Exchange

Safety issues in the core

Reports of people feeling unsafe while walking downtown have been shared anecdotally among friends and colleagues in the past few months, reported to the Downtown Edmonton Community League and other organizations, and also to the police as the stats below will show. Lockdown measures, working from home, and generally less people out and about in the core has led to an uptick in reports of crimes of opportunity on the one hand, and on the other hand, there is increased visibility of those suffering mental health crises, addictions and opioid use, and a lack of sustainable housing and shelter for the most vulnerable.

Fardoussa Omar has been Safety Chair of DECL for three years and says they’ve always had complaints about safety in the core but agrees that COVID is exacerbating things for those who live and work downtown. She is also concerned about those who are dealing with addictions and mental health issues experiencing targeted crime.

Photo by Alex Pugliese

“The folks who live and work downtown are coming into contact with the unhoused and then also the unhoused are coming into more volatility of just being on the street. I think when everybody’s mandated to work from home or when businesses are mandated to shut down, you really notice who doesn’t have a home and who doesn’t have a space to be and some of the challenges they have to cope with,” Omar says.

“I was walking down my alleyway and I noticed one of our unhoused neighbours in a lot of pain and he was screaming out for help. I called 211 and they said I have to call the police because it looks like he’s in a medical crisis and will need an ambulance. So I ended up doing that and after the incident was resolved the police officer called back and said my unhoused neighbour was bear sprayed by someone walking by.”

Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee talked about concerns with safety in downtown on Facebook Live on October 7 and said there are two major issues happening that require different strategies: crime and social disorder.

“They’re not the same conversation. We’re going to need to change how we deploy downtown to get some better outcomes,” McFee said.“We need to rethink the whole approach downtown. And let me just contextualize what I mean by that. We have focused as a city, and not just as a police service, on housing. Housing is an important ingredient [but housing] isn’t the ultimate solution, it’s the destination. We’re dealing with a major addictions problem. A major, major addictions problem.”

Photo by Brandon Erlinger

Year-to-date the number of safety occurrences Edmonton Police have dealt with downtown has increased 3%, while citywide they’ve actually decreased 4.3%. There’s been an increase of 14.4% of assault overall: 9.7% increase of assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm, 12.9% increase in aggravated assault, 27.3% of assault. These numbers have actually decreased in other parts of the city. Family violence, street disorder, and mental health issues have also increased.

These numbers are significant and need to be addressed. Working as a community, the hope is that solutions can be found to make folks feel safe being downtown, while also putting essential services in place to separate those who are committing crime from those who are in a tough spot and need help with addictions, housing, and mental health.

Taking paintbrushes to the pavement

With a newly painted crosswalk, the Oliver Community League (OCL) hopes the colourful artwork will get drivers to pay more attention to pedestrians crossing one of the less safe roads in the neighbourhood.

Volunteers from the OCL took their paintbrushes to the pavement on October 16, decorating the crossing at 103 Avenue and 111 Street with paintings of strawberries, peas and carrots.

Sydney Gross, a member of the community league’s recreACTION committee, said painting the crosswalk can help increase the intersection’s visibility, and can potentially make drivers slow down. She also came up with the harvest-themed design.

“We chose the theme of harvest because we were painting this
in the harvest season,” she said. “The design was inspired by the farmers’ markets near our neighbourhood as well as a celebration of how beautiful this autumn has been in Edmonton.”

Daniel Morin, who chairs the OCL’s civics committee, said they identified 103 Avenue as one of the unsafer roads in the neighbourhood, as there are a few uncontrolled intersections with only a yield sign in place. He added that cars often use the road to drive through the neighbourhood quickly.

The idea to add a vibrant crosswalk to that intersection came after the City of Edmonton launched its Street Labs program, where anyone with an idea for increasing road safety can submit a proposal.

While he thought it was going to take some time to get approval from the city, Morin said he was impressed by how straightforward and collaborative the process ended up being. The city also covered the cost of materials.

“Initially we were kind of intimidated by the number of documents and templates that were for the program,” he said. “But once we just got something in, we had that point of contact and we were able to just move on things rather quickly.”

Edmonton launched the two-year Street Labs program in April 2021 with $700,000 in funding. The initiative is part of the city’s Vision Zero strategy, which aims to reach zero traffic-related serious injuries and fatalities by 2032. More than 80 applications were sent in by late May.

City spokeswoman Sarah Giourmetakis said that five Edmonton neighbourhoods saw the implementation of a Street Labs project this year. These projects include eight vibrant crosswalks, four shared streets, nine parklets, and 12 curb extensions. The city is now working with other communities to install projects next year.

With a painted sidewalk now in place at 103 Avenue, Morin said the response has been generally positive.

“When we were painting it on their day, there were residents walking around and seeing the work being done, and they were all very positive about it,” he said. “They talked about how that intersection is problematic, and they are glad that there was something done with it.”

Morin added that the OCL is planning to do more to improve pedestrian safety on 103 Avenue, including more painted crosswalks, adding additional stop signs, and possibly putting in curb extensions.

best in the core

By Sydnee Bryant

What would life be without fries? Seriously though, this potato of choice can be paired with breakfast, burgers, and even fancy nights out. For obvious reasons, fries had to make the cut.

★ ★ WINNER: THE MARC ★ ★

It’s not surprising that a French restaurant has incredible French fries – steak frites are a classic for a reason, after all. But it is a delightful surprise just how incredible the hand-cut fries are. These golden-brown French treasures are elevated to another level when paired with the restaurant’s sinful truffle aioli. themarc.ca/

>> RUNNER-UP: BLUE PLATE DINER

This Edmonton staple offers both classic hand-cut fries and yam fries. These Kennebec potatoes are lucky that they get to become hot, crispy fries that are gluten-free and dairy-free, as well as safe for vegetarians and vegans to eat. The decadent yam fries reach peak deliciousness when dipped into the spicy mayo that accompanies them. blueplatediner.ca/

>> RUNNER-UP: SHERLOCK HOLMES PUB

Sherlocks garlic thyme fries are a delight, a true superstar. No mediocre chips here, just hot, buttery fries full of that amazing garlicky taste that we can’t get enough of. These fries do more than just take up room on your plate or soak up alcohol in your tummy—they make your meal complete. thesherlockspubs.com/

By Sydnee Bryant

Edmontonians are some of the most creative and hard-working folks around and we wanted to take a moment to give a shout-out to amazing BIPOC products and places you need to check out.

★ ★ WINNER: DRINK VITALITEAS ★ ★

Founder Fanta Camara was inspired by her grandmother, a medicine woman in Mali, West Africa, to learn about how herbs and spices can affect health. Vitaliteas sells their custom blends of black, green, herbal, and decaf tea, as well as Chai, at a variety of stores, including RGE RD’s The Butchery, and Meuwely’s Artisan Food Market. vitaliteas.ca/

>> RUNNER-UP: VIEW AND BUY ART AT BEARCLAW GALLERY

For more than 45 years, Bearclaw Gallery has worked with Indigenous artists to promote Canadian First Nations, Métis, and Inuit art. Whether you’re looking for a piece of art for your living room or are shopping for gifts, consider supporting a Canadian Indigenous artist. The Inuit soapstone sculptures are particularly stunning. bearclawgallery.com/about/

>> RUNNER-UP: SHOP AT KYN APPAREL

This Edmonton-based clothing brand, founded by award-winning designer Alèthe Kaboré, mixes African prints with fabrics such as denim, lace, and tulle. A self-taught designer and seamstress, Alèthe was born and raised in Burkina Faso. Bold, colourful business and business casual clothes designed locally and available online? We’ll take one of everything. kynapparel.ca/

By Christopher Sikkenga

No, it isn’t 2008 and we’re not talking Four Loko. Instead, let’s talk 1908 and locomotives!

★ ★ WINNER: HIGH LEVEL BRIDGE STREETCAR ★ ★

From the gorgeous views at the top of the High Level Bridge to the history of the streetcars provided by the Edmonton Railway Society that operates the fleet, this is the best way to ride the rails. Additionally, the High Level Bridge Streetcar is the most efficient way to get from downtown to Whyte Ave. edmonton-radial-railway.ab.ca

>> RUNNER-UP: CP HOLIDAY TRAIN

Since 1999, a train with thousands of lights has traversed the country each holiday season to aid food banks. A modified car serves as a stage for performers to play at each stop. This year’s event will be a virtual concert, see the community tab on cpr.ca for more information.

>> RUNNER-UP: FORT EDMONTON PARK

Bill Graham rescued Locomotive 107, the steam engine, from a swamp in Louisiana. The massive 50 tonne engine provides a trip through time as you can move from the entrance of the park to a station near the fantastic new Indigenous Peoples Experience. fortedmontonpark.ca

By Sydnee Bryant

Allergies and specific food preferences are what make us all so unique and loveable, right? We’re happy to let you know of some restaurants that go above and beyond to cater to their customers’ needs.

★ ★ WINNER: THE MOTH ★ ★

This plant-based café is best known for their Instagramable space but they’re also a haven for anyone suffering from food allergies, sensitivities, or Celiac disease. Every menu item is clearly marked to indicate the presence of seven common allergens, and everything is dairy-free (even their amazing coffee and tea lattes!). mosaicsandmotharchive.com/themothcafe/

>> RUNNER-UP: REMEDY CAFÉ

This is where to find the best gluten-free wraps possible (they don’t fall apart!). A lot of their menu can be made gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan, and their menu is helpfully colour-coded! They also crush the raw dessert game, and offer lactose-free, almond, soy, and oat milks. And did we mention the vegan milkshakes? remedycafe.ca/

>> RUNNER-UP: LOVE PIZZA

The best gluten-free pizza in the city, hands down. The staff are very careful when handling a gluten-free order, and they offer an allergy guide on their website so that you can read up on everything beforehand. Dairy allergy or vegan? They’ve got you covered with Daiya mozzarella! They also have a keto-friendly crust! lovepizza.ca/

By Christopher Sikkenga

When we pave over paradise Joni Mitchell advises we go to a “tree museum,” or the U of A Botanic Garden to find peace and silence. All the concrete in the core carries sound through our skulls and these are the absolute loudest.

★ ★ WINNER: VOCIFEROUS VACUUM TRUCKS ★ ★

In 2015 the city started a project to “enhance the avenue with innovative, vibrant and relevant streetscape.” In March 2020 phase 1, the area from 109 Street to 114 Street started construction. Enter the vac truck! These shrill machines are used for sludge, sewers, or hydro-excavation to expose utility lines and pipes under the road. Jasper Ave was turned into a deafening soundscape for several months. Those of us living and working near the construction would have rather spent 10 hours a day with the brutal buzz of a dentist drill.

>> RUNNER-UP: PUB-CRAWLING PEOPLE

The goal of bar hopping is to be seen, and unfortunately heard. Those of us living off of Jasper Ave hear the call of the wild each weekend. The intoxicated excitement of e-scooter shenanigans and the agony of the ambulance aid can be heard throughout the evenings. Turn off your TV and enjoy the back-alley breakups and the drunken delusions howled at the moon.

>> RUNNER-UP: THE BELLS OF THE BASILICA

Pardon? I missed your surprise at the St. Joseph’s Basilica being on this list because my ears are ringing. While some may enjoy the clangor, being neighbours with the cathedral bells is challenging. The 1990 addition of bells to the basilica made sure to comply with the noise abatement bylaw, but it is easy to lose one’s train of thought in the last few minutes of the workday when the brain is struck by the chimes at 5:22 pm.

By Christopher Sikkenga

The fantastic thing about living downtown is that escaping to nature is only several steps away. When things get too noisy, one can descend to the River Valley in a variety of ways.

★ ★ WINNER: 114 STREET STAIRS ★ ★

For those of us looking for some quiet reflection and something in between a full-on workout and mechanized transportation, the stairs hidden where 114 Street meets 99 Avenue are an excellent compromise. The stairs in the neighbouring Grant Notley Park and those at the end of 113 Street have large seating areas at the top which can attract more people. On 114 Street, seating consists of a single bench which allows for easier social distancing in these uncertain times. The staircase is a straight shot to the River Valley trails, without any switchbacks, to efficiently deliver you from the noise of the Albertan Provincial Vehicle, the pickup truck. Slip down at 9850 114 St NW.

>> RUNNER-UP: CONSTABLE EZIO FARAONE PARK STAIRS

This is the popular spot for the disciples of cardio. The roughly 202 steps see a lot of traffic because of the challenge and the access to the Commonwealth Walkway which travels 10km along the North Saskatchewan River. Get moving at Constable Ezio Faraone Park, 11004 97 Ave NW. Learn more about the Commonwealth Walkway at edmontoncommonwealthwalkway.com

>> RUNNER-UP: THE 100 STREET FUNICULAR

If cardio is not your cup of tea, the 100 Street Funicular has your back. Completed in 2017, the mechanized River Valley access floats you from downtown to a small promenade above Grierson Hill Road. From there, you can continue to a river lookout or take an elevator down to the River Valley trails. Ride down at 10007 – 100 Street NW.

By Sonia De Fazio

Home, shmome. If you gotta work on your own, at least there are some great local spots for ambiance and background buzz to make you almost miss the cubicle life.

★ ★ WINNER: DOSC ★ ★

By far the coziest and most delicious spot to set up shop in Downtown. Located in the historic Metals Building, hugging the corner of 104 Street and 101 Ave, DOSC offers a creative coffee shop space for the nomadic worker. Whether it’s a crypto check-in, email blast or a spot to sit and research, DOSC’s snacks, staff and scenery are what makes this coffee shop office the best in the core. Next time you’re there, try the waffles. Spoiler alert! You’ll actually be eating a waffle-shaped donut and it will blow your mind. dosc.ca

>> RUNNER UP: ICONOCLAST

Located in the Oliver Exchange building, this is a happening spot for being tucked away on a side street. It’s a great place to people-watch while you pretend to read a book. In the warmer months grab your drink and your laptop and settle into one of the tables on the sunken patio. Coffee is roasted daily and if you seriously haven’t tried it yet, then it’s time to treat your taste buds. iconoclastcoffee.com

>> RUNNER UP: LOCK STOCK COFFEE

Lock Stock is a classic choice to hunker down and bang out a few hours of work. Suggested for an early morning or early afternoon work blitz, since they do close at 3:00 pm. The Lock Stock workspace is consistently cool. The coffee is always hot, the breakfast sandwiches are always satisfying and the tunes always fresh. lockstockcoffee.com

By Sonia De Fazio

Sometimes you just want to grab something and go. No fear, we’ve tried all the spots and found the best cheap eats to keep you satiated and your wallet happy too.

★ ★ WINNER: DALLA ★ ★

If you’re on the hunt for a delicious meal that will fill your belly and not break the bank, Dalla has you covered. It is an Italian restaurant, humbly carrying on the Zenari’s family legacy, with a space and menu that feels like your home away from home. Their new restaurant breathes life into the heart of our city, standing bright and beautiful on bustling Rice Howard Way. After getting pulled in by the high ceilings, hanging foliage and wholesome wall art, you’ll fall head over heels for their panini menu, all around the $10 mark and guaranteed to tantalize your taste buds. Panini menu available everyday until 3:00 pm. dalla.ca

>> RUNNER UP: DORINKU OSAKA

Slurp up the intricate flavours of Japan at Dorinku Osaka. Located on Jasper Ave, off 104 Street, Dorinku offers a small but mighty ramen menu that will be sure to warm your heart and cool down your spending. The ramen menu is available at lunch and dinner, offering a range of traditional broth flavours and fresh ingredients, all around the $11 – $15 range. They even offer their ramen as a frozen takeaway option, so you can cook it up in the comfort of your own home. Large portions and big taste on a small budget makes Dorinku Osaka a solid runner-up for best cheap eats during the week in the Core. osaka.dorinku.ca

>> RUNNER UP: COSMIC PIZZA & DONAIR

Hankering for a few slices of ‘za? Cosmic Pizza & Donair is your downtown destination for pizza by the slice at a slashed price. Located at the entryway of the Fox Tower 2, it offers a cheap, quick and tasty option for the tummy rumblies. Whether it’s a snack attack, second lunch or a quick bite before your next destination, you can easily fill up on two of their hefty slices for under $10. cosmicpizza.ca.

By Sonia De Fazio

Taking your time to look at things you didn’t even know you needed has a kind of therapeutic essence to it, doesn’t it? Indulge in some shopping therapy at these quiet and quirky spots.

★ ★ WINNER: RAM GIFT SHOP ★ ★

Allow your curiosity to keep you just a little longer at the Royal Alberta Museum Gift Shop. It’s one of those shops that you drop in intending to kill 10 minutes but end up staying for 45 because you’re hypnotized by the perfectly curated selection of gifts and goodies. The RAM Gift Shop has everything from pottery to puzzles to prints, made by local artisans from across Alberta. You’ll hop in on a whim and leave happily with books, jewelry and apparel you didn’t know you needed until you did. ramshop.ca

RUNNER UP: ARMSTRONG BLOCK CANNABIS

Come for the chronic, stay for the crew. Armstrong Block takes runner up for most loiter-able people factor. After you talk selection, catch up with the cool staff and toss a few tickles over to the store cat, you’re easily tagging an extra 15 minutes to your routine purchase time. The staff are super genuine and fun to chat with. They can mingle you into submission with their humour and hype. One second you’re comparing kush, the next you’re divulging into details about evening plans to slay some saliva with a side of All Happy takeout, and they are right there, encouraging you every step of the way. historicplaces.ca

RUNNER UP: THE ARTWORKS

Loiter in luxury at The Artworks. The exquisite display of art, florals and home decor will make you and your minutes melt. The Artworks is brimming with beauty. You’ll walk in ready to buy a one-of-a-kind greeting card, bouquet or sentimental piece of jewelry, but then stick around to bask in the beauty of the whole store. The intricate selection of gifts creates a majestic museum vibe that will tempt you into investigating each individual piece, as if it were a sacred and rare relic. theartworks.ca

By Sydnee Bryant

Softly falling snow, sparkling in the winter light, the Core offers some beautiful places to take a stroll through crunchy snow-covered streets and trails.

★ ★ WINNER: LOUISE MCKINNEY RIVERFRONT PARK ★ ★

Take the funicular down to this beautiful park, located right next to Downtown (or brave the stairs; we’re not your mother). Louise McKinney offers classic views of the North Saskatchewan, plenty of places to sit down for a break, and enough trees laced with snow to appease even the most cynical of winter walkers. edmonton.ca/activities_parks_recreation/parks_rivervalley/louise-mckinney-riverfront-park

>> RUNNER-UP: 104TH STREET PROMENADE

If you’re a fan of mixing walking with window shopping, 104 Street and 104 Avenue is the spot for you. Grab a hot beverage from Credo and stop in stores whenever you need to warm up, or something catches your eye. And when you get hungry—there’s plenty of fantastic dining options at your fingertips. exploreedmonton.com/attractions-and-experiences/4th-street-promenade

>> RUNNER-UP: 124 Street

This area mixes retail and residential, making it the ideal spot for a leisurely stroll. Admire the window displays, get a hot drink or a snack, then continue on to view the houses, lit brightly with festive decorations. It’s the perfect way to spend an afternoon outside—a Candy Cane Lane-esque spot tucked away on the westside of the core. 124street.ca

5 ARTISTS 1 LOVE:

An Offer of Connection and Joy

ISOLATION AND CONNECTION

In 2021, the annual music show connected to 5 Artists 1 Love was cancelled because of the provincial mandates. “During COVID, because we couldn’t meet each other there was even more reason to somehow reach out to each other and ensure we’re hearing each other and connecting.” Darren Jordan said. As the curator and producer of 5 Artists 1 Love, he creates a space for Black artists to share their paintings, sculpture, music, poetry, and creativity every February. Celebrating 15 years of the art show, 5 Artists 1 Love filled the second floor of the Art Gallery of Alberta last February. Unfortunately, Alberta was in a lockdown. As mandates relaxed, the AGA extended the show until September. The music show of 2021 was not so lucky.

However, Jordan and the team at 5 Artists 1 Love put together a video retrospective about the show’s 10 years of history available on their website, 5artists1love.com. Additionally, 5 Artists 1 Love has been involved with Culture Days for many years. In the midst of the pandemic and in partnership with the National Black Coalition of Canada – Edmonton Chapter, 5 Artists 1 Love created “The Not So Tiny Desk Series,” a video performance playing off the popular NPR Tiny Desk Concerts. Musician, engineer and producer Enoch Attey has been involved with the annual concert in a variety of ways. Attey performed in the video, which is available on the 5 Artists 1 Love Youtube channel. Attey said there was a real need for the music and reminder of community in between COVID waves. “The wild thing is, could I use the money at the time? Yeah. For me, what was more important at that time was I haven’t played with anyone in a minute. I haven’t seen anyone in a minute. It’s been harder each day to find a reason to play. They could have been paying me 20 bucks and I still would have showed up.”

“As a creative it is hard,” Jordan reflected. “Most of the artists
I know, most musicians are always griping that they don’t have enough time to rehearse, to paint, to create. Most of these people have day jobs. So you would think that most people would be on fire in terms of their creative output.”

Unfortunately, the pandemic has many of us feeling anxious because of all the uncertainty. Jordan, who works in mental health continued, “You may not have the spirit right now because of what’s going on in the world. The uncertainty zaps your energy and it can sometimes cover that spark that you need.” Jordan hopes that the art show and the music performance of 5 Artists 1 Love are bringing people together to support each other. “Now, more than ever, people need to connect. Now, more than ever, people need to share joy together.”

DIVERSITY WITHIN

As the 5 Artists 1 Love website states, part of the spirit behind the organization is to provide “Edmonton residents with the opportunity to celebrate the cultural mosaic within the city’s Black community.” As the Black Lives Matter social movement continues to grow and evolve it feels important to remember the diversity within the Black community.

“That’s key. I think a lot of people tend to forget that and lump Black people together, but it’s a lot more than that.” Attey put it this way, “There’s folks from Trinidad, folks from Jamaica who are going to see things and experience things completely differently. I’m going to taste someone’s dish and be like, ‘Nah, I am not about that.’ Then there’s the dish I grew up with, and I’m like, ‘Yes! And everyone else is like are you crazy?'”

Jordan is passionate about exposing people to the variety of cultures within the Black community. “Not only are we celebrating that diversity within ourselves, but we’re sharing it with the people that come through the door as well. We’re connecting and educating with other communities and cultures as well. Nothing but good can come from that. You can’t hate somebody once you’ve shared their culture, broke bread with them or danced with them or you nodded your head to some Marvin Gaye.”

Just as Edmonton recognizes Ukrainian and French heritage, Jordan reminds us, “Just because you’re Black, we’re not a monolith. We don’t all respond the same way. We don’t all act the same or share the same views.” As a performer, Attey noted that Jordan and the team at 5 Artists 1 Love could use their social capital after 15 years to attract bigger acts. Attey went on to say, “But every year there’s a push, how can we do something different this year? Who wasn’t showcased last year that we can showcase this year, that has a completely different voice than anything we’ve ever heard before? That drive for innovation and solving that puzzle is epic. It’s the thing that has me waiting by the phone, hoping Darren calls me and says, ‘Yo Enoch, I need you.'”

Jordan has a core group of artists to rely on for 5 Artists 1 Love events, “but it is imperative that we make way for people who haven’t had that opportunity. So, for example, where the art show is concerned, it doesn’t matter how successful or how well received your work is, two times. You are allowed to be in the show twice as a featured artist. And what that does, it opens the door for new and emerging artists to throw their hat in the ring to show the city, the community what it is they have to offer.”

In addition, 5 Artists 1 Love has used The Wall to encourage more community participation. This feature of 5 Artists 1 Love allows anyone to provide a 12 x 12 gallery-ready, 2-inch thick canvas with art based on a different theme each year. Feature artists in the art show are encouraged to participate in The Wall, but Jordan says individuals from a variety of different backgrounds share their work. “One of the goals of the show is to invite people to the party. How do you hate somebody when you have learned about their culture, experienced their culture, you’ve heard their stories. You make the connection in the similarities you have in your values and cultures as well. What I try to do is be a conduit for those conversations. Set something up so that people can gather, meet and learn about each other in a safe and welcoming environment.”

BEING BETTER ALLIES

Conversations about racism can be uncomfortable. How do we, as Edmontonians, rise to that challenge? Jordan offered, “Acknowledging that it is an uneven playing field and that there’s a history that precedes you or your family. I believe behaviour is purposeful. A system like that, a system that is uneven, inequitable there’s a reason why. I think people need to be honest about the fact that it does exist.” Jordan believes that our city is constantly changing with a rich influx of different cultures. “We’re fortunate in that respect. It goes back to educating each other. Sometimes there are people within our own community that don’t know much about another set of people, another group. And if they’re given an opportunity to share that culture through music, food and art I just think it makes for a much more cohesive and positive community as a whole.”

Attey commented that being part of the music production of 5 Artists 1 Love allows him to engage “with people from different backgrounds, worldviews and mindsets and cultural roots. I get to engage with them all on even ground. It doesn’t matter if the person sitting next to me is black or white or indigenous, we are all there to enjoy, partake, contribute to this beautiful exposure of culture, and to learn.”

Despite the pandemic, over 6000 people went through the AGA during the 2021 5 Artists 1 Love show. The 2022 art show has been extended to run from February to April. Darren Jordan is “hoping to do the 5 Artist 1 Love music show in-person this year. We’re at the Winspear. It’s been my goal from day one that we’ll play at the best stage in the city. Looks like that might happen.” Saturday February 5, 2022 is the scheduled date. Tickets to the last 11 years of the shows sold out quickly, but should you miss out Jordan mentioned they’re always looking for volunteers. There is an application available on the 5 Artists 1 Love website, along with contact information to be part of The Wall. 5 Artists 1 Love is always looking for sponsors and can contact them through the website as well.

Enoch Attey is a guitarist and the music director for an Edmonton group called Melafrique. You can find more information at linktr.ee/Melafrique_. Attey hopes to be involved in the 2022 show in some capacity. “What’s so deep about Edmonton for me, especially coming from a place like Washington D.C. where the music scene is thriving, what’s so deep for me is that here you have the unique opportunity to not just contribute to the scene but shape and change it, To mold it. I never would have dreamt that was a thing I could do.”