About Town 2014: A Year in Review

2014 was a year of change for me and thus I didn’t log as many cultural experiences as I would have liked to. As the year comes to a close I reflect on the inspiring events that I got to part take in in 2014 and I’m noticing that this year was largely participating in social justice events, awareness raising events, and listening to lessons from activists. So here is what I thought were some of the best gatherings this year, in no particular order.

1) The Lost Twelve Years- Truck Contemporary Art Gallery. Performance art is definitely an art form that I find courageous and intriguing. This particular performance was part of MS:T 7 festival back in October. The venue was at Truck gallery in an industrial space painted white with stark fluorescent lighting. Upon entry artist Chun Hua Catherine Dong was standing naked on a rice paper wall hanging with a Chinese teapot, a supersoaker, and a ceramic bowl around her. dongThe performance began with Ms. Dong repeatedly pinching her brow ridge above her nose between her index and middle finger knuckles. From time to time she stopped to wet her hand in the ceramic bowl which held water then she continued to pinch. After about seven minutes a definitive flesh wound had begun to form taking the shape of a red bhindi-like dot. As she continued this motion the onlookers were initially amused but as it became clear that Ms. Dong was inflicting harm on herself the mood changed to somber then disturbed. Next she picked an object out of the ceramic bowl which appeared to be a wanton soup spoon. With the spoon she began to scrape her throat along her esophagus. She pressed down violently as she repeatedly stroked her throat until a clear red, raw mark appeared. Again the audience did not know where to look or how to look away. Discomfort and concern could be sensed on the faces of the onlookers. My own internal dialogue consisted of me asking myself how long I was going to let the artist maim herself. This was followed by Dong taking the tea pot, turning her back to the audience, and balancing the teapot on top of her head. She proceeded to pour what appeared to look and smell like calligraphy ink down her back. The ink cascaded down her body and landed on the rice paper. Unexpectedly she swiped the ink pot off her head towards the audience. A shard of the pot landed in my lap. The finale consisted of taking the supersoaker (also filled with ink)and shooting herself first in the heart and then the head. She repeated this motion until there was not ink left. All-in-all this was a very distressing performance and I was trying to make sense of it for quite some time. Perhaps something about self-loathing and cultural rejection. When I read up on it it had to do with Dong’s absence from her home country and her wanting to express her experience as an ethnic minority overseas. What I liked about this performance was that it was the most evocative piece I have witnessed and I thought it was quite ambitious for our generally tame city.

2) Marda Loop Justice Film FestivalNovembermarda loopThis is quickly becoming an annual favourite for me. Not only is this event free, there are awesome documentary screenings, tasty food from local vendors, and an NGO village. This year, when I wasn’t tabling for human rights with Amnesty, I watched a couple of great films including “The Patent Wars“, “The Human Experiment“, and “La Violencia“. The last film, about women during the Guatamalan genocide was a hard watch and I found the film, “Granito“, on similar subject-matter, much better done.

3) Honens HullabalooSeptemberHullabalooThumbnailThis event was definitely more high brow than I have experienced in a while. Honens is well-known for putting on excellent events around the city and this one was no exception. This was an evening in French Cabaret style complete with amuse-bouche food sampling from some of Calgary’s best restaurants accompanied by music from pianist Alexandre Tharaud and Canada’s great Martha Wainwright. Ms. Wainwright, one of my favourites, was singing songs from her Edith Piaf album. The mortifying part of this evening, however, was that Martha had to stop her singing several times to tell the noisy audience to shit the f@#$ up! I respected her assertiveness but was embarrassed for the lack of recognition she got from the audience.

4) Wordfest presents Naomi KleinOctoberthis_changes_everythingWordfest is a beloved annual festival in Calgary. Unfortunately I did not attend as many readings as I would have liked to but fortunately I did catch poli-sci favourite, Naomi Klein. She was promoting her new book “This Changes Everything” which is about the imminent danger of climate change and what we need to do to address it to ensure that life can continue on living on earth. I enjoyed this event for a number of reasons, namely it brought together a like-minded group of individuals to a sold-out lecture in an energy industry city where there is not always room for candid discussion on energy alternatives.

5) Vandana Shiva-AprilVandana This event was put on by Public Interest Alberta. Hearing Vandana Shiva speak was a pivotal moment in my life. Ms. Shiva is a leading global food security activist and has led many grassroots movements to protect farmer’s rights and biodiversity, starting in India but quickly spreading around the globe. I was there representing the National Farmer’s Union and petitioning against Bill C-18 which has to do with farmer’s right to save seeds. Vandana’s positive energy combined with her knowledge and strong feminine persona made for a very inspiring evening.

6) Sled IslandJunePoster_SledIsland2014_560x356_WEBLast year’s flood led to a loss in revenue for one of Calgary’s trending indie music festivals Sled Island. Many generous music patrons donated their tickets to the festival rather than being reimbursed post flood to ensure that the festival could continue in upcoming years. As a result, 2014 saw a great line up of musicians and fans who were gung-ho to participate in the festivities. Luke’s Drug Mart in Bridgeland started off the festival by bringing in Shad and blocking off 1st ave NE. When Neko Case unexpectedly cancelled her Sled Island show a few weeks later the Sled Island organizers decided to offer a free outdoor show at Olympic Plaza including musical acts by Blitzen Trapper and Joel Plaskett. The beautiful Friday evening of the concert turned into an epic rain blitz that resulted in seeking shelter in outhouses and futilely under tree canopies. The next night, staying up until midnight three and a half months pregnant to see St. Vincent, was also well worth it until I accidentally fell asleep on the couches at Flames Central and got woken up by a disapproving security guard.

7) Emmanual Jal Tour- Februaryemmanuel jal I felt really lucky to be part of Emmanuel Jal’s “We Want Peace” tour. Emmanuel visited about ten schools around Calgary and because I volunteer with Amnesty International I was able to get Mr. Jal to speak at my school. This former child soldier-cum-rapper/activist inspired many youngsters and adults alike during his stay and his story really made me think about the power of human resilience.

2015 will undoubtedly bring changes and the landscape of my cultural outings may consist of more baby yoga classes and long walks along the riverside. A whole new kind of cultural world will manifest itself and I’m looking forward to exploring the different parental communities in this city. Until next year, auld lang syne.

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Bakeries, where to go and what to get

One of my favourite things to do is bike to a bakery, smell the fresh bread, buy a good-looking pastry, and eat it in the sunshine. The problem I find is that a lot of bakeries are now in large grocery stores and, while the goods may still be tasty, the charm of the bakery experience is lost. Yes, I should have been alive in 17th century France. Fortunately, there are a few places around downtown Calgary which either hcustard-croissantave delicious baking, great ambiance, quality ingredients, or all of the above.

The first spot that comes to mind is La Boulangerie in Mission. Not only does it have a La Boulangeriequaint French feel with small round tables and large glass displays  it also has quality delicate pastries and wholesome breads. I decided to try the vanilla custard croissant here. For the reasonable price of $3.75 my taste buds got whisked away to the south of France, or wherever they make killer custard croissants. I guess I’ll have to compare it to a France-made pastry when I jet-set to Avignon in a few weeks. But if you’re staying in Calgary this summer you may as well be fancy and treat yourself to La Boulangerie.

Wild Grainz InglewoodOne of the first bakeries I stopped-in at that really blew me away was Wild Grainz bakery in Inglewood. They have great curb appeal with a big gallery window filled with tantalizing treats. But what is most striking about this bakery is the aromawafting from behind the counter. Olfactorially speaking (yes I made that word up) Wild Grainz gives you the impression that they know quality and they know how to make good bread. I think I grew up as a bread snob. As immigrants my parents may have found the hardest adjustment the flimsy Canadian bread. Of course I jest but I do think my mom’s critical bread eye (dough eye?) may have subconsciously influenced me. So, I bought the harvest multi-grain bread. It had a quality sturdy crust with a soft interior, delicious. I definitely recommend this place if you’re looking for artisan loaves.

A household name in bakeries here in central Calgary is Sidewalk Citizen Bakery. They are Sidewalk Citizen Bakery Sunnysidealso not afraid to admit that they are, “COMMITTED TO THE ART OF MAKING BREAD” which is the only thing you will see on their opening website page. One of the reasons Sidewalk Citizen is known to many is because a lot of their baked goods are sold at local coffee shops. It was here that I overcame my fear of sourdough bread. While I was perusing the adjoining Sunnyside Natural Market a sour-dough sample caught my eye. I tried it and to my surprise it didn’t have the overpowering sour-dough taste that I normally don’t care for, probably also a mother influence. A knowledgeable baker told me about their 4-year-old sour-dough starter and how the quality grain they use allows for a milder taste. I bought a whole loaf and thoroughly enjoyed it, not in one sitting of course.

Double Elle Bakery RamsayBecause I would be remiss not to give a shout out to my new neighbourbood of Ramsay, I bring you Double Elle Bakery. Owner Leah Layden prides herself on providing a “taste of heritage” by making products made from family recipes passed down for generations. The bakery itself is adorable and is situated across the picturesque and historic Ramsay School. I’m sure many youngsters get distracted in class when the smell of Leah’s brownies and blonde squares comes wafting through the window. There is not really a lot of sitting room, unless you want to enjoy a bun behind the antique, out-of-tune piano. But Double Elle may be the perfect stopping off point on a bike ride home .

Manuel LatruweLast, but I do say, certainly not least, is Manuel Latruwe  Belgian bakery. It is no coincidence that this fine shop is situated in the same building as Bernard Callebaut because Manuel Latruwe knows good chocolate and contacted Monsieur Callebaut to start a joint venture. And what a fine fusion they have created. I first heard about Manuel Latruwe bakery from a friend of mine who told me that her mother-in-law only buys baguettes there because they are just the best. When I went early July of last year to discover the baked goods for myself I discovered a vacated building decimated by the flood. A year later, I returned, happily to find a Manuel Latruwe polished, open, and ready for business. The ambiance is clean and uncluttered and the display cases are magnifique. Not so much for the display cases themselves as for what was in them: divine miniature cakes elaborately designed, tarts glazed to perfection, pastries delicately dusted with icing sugar, I could go on. I bought what I had come for, the baguette. And in true on-the-go Parisian manner I tore off an end and ate it while biking home. If I had a grandma in the city or a royal family member I would definitely take them here for an enjoyable mid-morning treat.

Baguette

 

 

 

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Eat a kick-ass pho

spring, summerEver since I saw the film Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter I’ve been dreaming of visiting Vietnam with its breath taking scenery. Since that is not in my immediate reality, I can still enjoy the taste of Vietnam around town.

I remember first trying Pho on a trip with my aunt and uncle in California when I couldn’t have been more that 15. All I remember is this crazy soup with all these Spring_Summer_fall_winter_and_spring_lakerubbery pink floaties in it. I think my pallet has refined since then or maybe I just know what to order now.

** The first Pho place I tried in Calgary was Saigon Y2k in Chinatown. The setting was your standard booth and table space with a few fish tanks and a golden Feng Shui cat on the counter.  The challenge is finding good vegetarian broth, whicphoh Saigon Y2K did succeed in doing. The veggies were bright green, which always alarms me, and the carrot slices were huge, which begs me to ask, where are the organic pho places in town?

***A while later I stumbled upon one of my favourite Pho places in Calgary, Lotus Vietnamese Noodle House on Macleod Trail SE. I have to be honest, what appealed to me most about this place initially was the exposed-brick south wall, which is where I asked to be seated. The broth was good here and the bowls enormous. Same issue with the carrots but there are lots of condiments on the table to cover up the GMO taste… But honestly, I always have a good time when I come here.

* I had a slightly worse experience across the street at Viet Nam Restaurant. My biggest beef with this place is that everything looks and feels a little grimy. Now don’t get me wrong, I know those places often have the best food, but that wasn’t the case here. I found the broth and dish itself quite flavourless and left feeling uninspired.

** Lastly, my experience of A Touch of Ginger in Kensington. It’s not quite pho, but pho is served there, I had a delicious tofu satay here that I still think about. It was simple yet packed with flavour and served on a bed of vermicelli noodles. Definitely try it.

So I guess I’m still searching for a Pho place that has it all: a crunchy organic carrot, a handsome condiment assortment, and a flavourful vegetarian broth. I think I’m just really going to have to go to Vietnam. Any suggestions?

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Within Walking Distance

My bicycle has been put away for quite a few months now yet winter’s more evil cousin, wind-chill Juanita, relentlessly graces us with her presence. And on this third day of spring at -14 Celsius I have still found excuses to discover the city à pied. While on foot there have been some noteworthy stopovers.

willow_31) Willow and Whimsy  is a new florist in Bridgeland which opened their doors just in
time for Valentine’s day, which is when I went in and bought a bouquet for myself. Just off of Edmonton Trail and Memorial Drive, Willow and Whimsy is true to its name. The vaulted ceilings, cast-iron heating vents, and partially exposed-brick walls of the old De Waal Block building make for a charming setting and a welcome change of scenery from the drab winter outdoors. At Willow and Whimsy they aim to provide customers with sustainably sourced flowers whenever possible and the front of house displays jewelry and other works by local artisans. Florist Jessica Fremont has truly brought a touch of Europe to Bridgeland.

2) Luke’s Drug Mart– I had no idea that a pharmacy-cum-coffee shop could create community the way Luke’s Drug Mart has. I make a sojourn there every Saturday morning and can confidently say that their Stumptown coffee is the best in the city. This is no ordinary drug store. The elusive owner has done his best to do away with the status quo by providing unique alternatives to card, toothpaste, and vinyl shopping. But this place really keeps on giving. It has gluten-free baking, quality cheese, and a free mini library! What?! I can’t wait to hear what the April 8th audacious announcement will be.touristiko

3) Sketch Art Supplies– Mount Pleasant may be deprived of many pleasant shops seeing as though most of the retail in this area is found along the ghastly Trans Canada Highway. So it came as a pleasant surprise when I laid eyes upon Sketch Art Supplies. This quaint shop is situated in an relatively low pedestrian area just off of 16th avenue. But I can imagine that once discovered, this neighbourhood art supplier is frequented by many for the quality paints and the public and private classes. Come for the supplies, stay for doodles, the mascot.

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In winter, festivals are like trees.

https://secure.flickr.com/photos/80975498@N00/287732826/in/photolist-rqGWN-ry5vF-snZcu-D1uFY-EhmNw-HBZEK-PSYPL-2jarLZ-38Jgo9-47B1AU-4eW5jE-4jyRfE-4o3xhD-4zQU3n-4AEaBU-4FEZKj-4FXLQo-4KtDup-4NyZyr-547U7Y-55GyDN-59zg1e-5eb79o-5hhHaJ-5rZofQ-5vD3w6-5yrJ1T-5zm7Kf-5C337p-5GwLSN-5NAisB-5RzhhF-5Vhj8h-5Wa3uc-5Xe7rY-5ZDdyn-63tYE4-63QYfu-68Dy2k-68Dzzt-6aJgGC-6c2NHF-6ejB2j-6enuSo-6qi4QR-6tLqRN-6zfgU7-6zjUr1-6zAQL4-6FkoXn-6GKDyw2014 has gotten off to an incredible start in the arts and culture scene here in Calgary. Much has happened in the months January and February, I’m assuming for the reason of keeping our midwinter depressions at bay until the foliage returns.

January was a-flutter with the likes of the High Performance Rodeo (HPR) which is an international festival of the arts and includes, but is not limited to, theatre and music. I only caught two shows out of the array of events to chose from but was inspired by both performances on two very different levels.

brimful-of-ashaThe first production I saw was the sold out “A Brimful of Asha” written by Canadian Ravi Jain. We were pulled in by free samosas and stayed for the story. The play was performed the playwright and his own mother as they told the story of Ravi’s trip around India being kiboshed by his parents stealthily trying to arrange his marriage. Hearing the account from both sides, the Canadian born-and-raised Ravi, and the traditional Indian mother Asha, culminated into a hilarious story which rehashed the old nature vs. nurture dilemma. The sincere manner in which the story was told not only made it appealing to all of the different cultures in the audience, it made for touching moments in which many of the audience members, including myself, could reflect on our own upbringings and silently give thanks to our mothers.

event_2103460521

Do you want what I’ve got? A Craigslist Cantata“, also part of HPR, was a musical made up of songs taken from real craigslist ads. There was no linear plot line here but the sheer ridiculousness of the stories tied the musical together. One song was about a woman who was giving away a box of hats, only they were hats for cats and some of the hats were formal and others were casual… Another song was sung by a man who was looking for someone to come sit in his bathtub filled with cooked pasta in a one-piece bathing suit, for five minutes. He claimed he wouldn’t be there when they got there but that his neighbour would be watching… Yet another character sang about putting out a basket of new sponges on her porch between the hours of 1 and 6 pm and that people were free to come and take one. She claimed she was very busy and therefore could only update how many sponges were left online every 45 minutes….The craziness continued song after song but there was a sad theme that prevailed as well, a theme of a lonely digital society that thirsts for human contact.

When the snow is dirty and the outside world doesn’t look the way we want it to, we create escapes in different ways. In that way, festivals are like trees.

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ABOUT town 2013: A Year in Review

2013 was a tumultuous year for Calgary and the arts. With the flood raining its parade on the city’s most active arts months, patrons and artists had to be extra vigilant to keep the art scene from going down the drain. Wow, terrible analogy. But even though 2013 saw a lot of destruction, the flood ended up being a catalyst for resilience and community building. Therefore, much creativity was exhibited this year and I was fortunate enough to attend the functions below which are my top 10 picks for 2013 (in chronological order):

1. NAKED IN THE HOUSE (March)-

naked in the house

I was surrounded by Calgary’s glitterati at this smarmy Exposure Photo Festival event at the Art Gallery of Calgary. The premise of this exhibit was that 12 local photographers were given a polaroid camera and one pack of film and they had half and hour to photograph a nude model in a location they know very little about. The results and the variety within those results were stunning. I’m excited to see what next year brings.

2. WRECK CITY (April)- I have been quoted to say that wreck house is the best public art project I have ever seen.  A bombastic statement, but it was the concept behind this multi-artist, multi-space art installation that worked to provoke that statement. In the early months of 2013, 9 Sunnyside homes were scheduled for demolition. A call-to-artists went out to use the empty houses as an installation space until demolition. And thus Wreck City was born. See my April post for more details.

3. SPLENDID ISOLATION (January-April)- Hands down, my favourite gallery in Calgary is Esker Foundation. Not only is this an amazing, modern space with stunning views of Inglewood and the river valley, Esker gets in eclectic work from all around the world. Though it was difficult to choose a favourite amongst this year’s exhibitions, I managed to select Splendid Isolation as most memorable. What struck me about the photographs by Alberta-based artists Olga Chagaoutdinova, Miruna Dragan, Orest Semchishen and George Webber is that so much can be said through a single portrait or scene. The photo below by Olga Chagaoutdinova is a glimpse of the caliber of works that were part of the exhibit. Chagaoutdinova transforms what seems to be an ordinary pioneer kitchen into a setting where a unique story can take place.

Spledid Isolation

4. GORILLA ART HOUSE (Year round)-

gorilla houseIt was a joyful moment when I discovered this local gem. Sadly, the soon-to-be-debunked public art studio, Gorilla House, will become a sushi chain so I was glad that I could enjoy it in its last year in production. I only attended a few Wednesdays’art auctions and am now the proud owner of Lane Shordee painting. For more details, see June’s post.

5. PAPER GIRL (August)- “The art of giving art.” I missed being a bike messenger this year but am hoping to join next season’s delivery. Papergirl collects 2d art throughout the year from artists all around the world, wraps it, and one day a year distributes it for free to people around the city on bicycles. It was so wonderful to see the throngs of cyclists handing out unexpected packages to curious, and often timid, passers-by. I was a lucky recipient of a beautiful black-and-white rose print. I can’t wait to see what 2014 will bring!

6. BEAKERHEAD FESTIVAL (September)-

Mine's in the top right-hand corner- a bicycle!

Mine’s in the top right-hand corner- a bicycle!

Sadly, I only went to one event that was part of Beakerhead this year. Beakerhead is this amazing festival that combines the arts and sciences. Apparently, that fusion creates an amazing marriage of brilliance. Adjectives galore. I ended up going to Telus Spark’s Adult’s Only night. The new science centre is spacious, bright, and filled with wonder and it was really fun to be a kid again. I got to paint sans light with glow-in-the dark paint, I made a necklace with my own DNA in it, and I got to make art from e-coli bacteria. It’s too bad I didn’t get to check out Sustainaval, a midway completely run on bio-diesel and other renewable resources, but there’s always next year.

7. JUNKYARD/PARADISE (October)- Fluid Festival is Calgary’s movement festival which often includes modern dance performances and theatrics. This year I saw Junkyard/Paradise, a Melanie Demers performance piece which was funny and disturbing. Liaising with other themes that are prevalent in other works presented at Theatre Junction Grand, Junkyard/Paradise toyed with notions of patriarchy, gluttony, sex, violence, and loss of identity. A striking scene was when one of the performers removed his prosthetic legs and proceeded to bomb-attack his own body with canned Roma tomatoes. It was comical and deeply disturbing at the same time.

8. HONEN’S BISON NOIR (October)- Thanks to the highly informative FFWD mailing list Ibisonnoir_calgaryculture found out about this priceless event. Having long been traumatized by the eerie soundtrack to Peter and the Wolf, grandson of Sergei Prokofiev, Gabriel Prokofiev came to town with his grandfather’s talents and his own contemporary sound. This is not easy-listening Schubert. The smouldering Prokofiev plays with percussion in an unexpected manned much like his influence, John Cage. He brought some skilled gals with him as well, pianist Katherine Chi and Toronto’s own Shauna Rolston on the cello. This event, held at the ambiant Local 522, felt very urban and moderne. I’m looking forward to June when Honen puts on John Cage Revisited.

9. BEETHOVEN ADN SHOSTAKOVITCH WITH JONATHAN BISS (November)

Jonathan Biss is a globally revered pianist who is well-rehearsed in Beethoven. Concert pianists are always enjoyable to watch. They have such focus that their body language often doesn’t translate into the music which they are playing. It’s and interesting construct we have created, watching a musician play music. What struck me most about this concert with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra was Shostakovitch’s 5th symphony. Listening while reading the program I disovered that, at the beginning of his career, Shostakovitch was a favourite of Stalind and therefore much of his early music is quite patriotic and militant. Shostakovitch’s progressive sound put him in Stalin’s bad boods at some point and his 5th symphony is the musical saga of Russia’s turbulent history. A Russian historian depict’s Shostakovitch’s perception of Russia’s governments as, ” a barbarian artist with a sleepy brush [who] blackens over a picture of genius, slapping over it senselessly his own lawless picture.” Poignant.

10. CHRISTMAS IN INGLEWOOD (November)- This event can be summed up in one word: joyful. Christmas in Inglewood was a new concept to me and it basically means this, all of the stores in Inglewood decide to keep their stores open until 9:00pm during weeks leading up to Christmas. Opening night of this means big time hustle and bustle from shop to shop, perusing the wares but also sampling the snacks and free flowing wine. Nothing opens the purse strings more than a little vino flowing through the veins, and these shopkeepers are well aware of that. All in all, Christmas in Inglewood is a lovely way to welcome the yule-tide season.

There have been many conversations over the past year whether Calgary can, in fact consider itself as a world class city. Many say that it’s changing and growing in that direction all the time. I experienced some amazing cultural events that felt momentous and current. And if we can pull that off in a year that tops Environment Canada’s annual weather stories then I look even more forward to what a stable year can bring.

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The Winter Sun Approves

The Winter Sun Approves

Breath rolls from you in frosted puffs. You gaze up at the winter sky with its muted pinks and purples. Snow is falling, snow on snow. Cedar branches sag under its dense blankets. You close your eyes and let a snowflake melt on your tongue. It never quenches your thirst but you continue to sample winter’s cocktail. You arc your arms and legs along the soft pack of snow on the ground. Up down, open and closed. Your frenetic movements cause a glistening cloud to form around you. You sink deeper and deeper until you see the walls of the blue and white snow angel you have made. Overhead, the sun nods approvingly at the beauty you have created this midwinter.nature-landscapes_hdwallpaper_wonderful-misty-winter-japanese-morning_6309

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Election on the Easel

As Calgary gets amped up for its civic election, locals get bombarded with lawn-sign pollution with unfamiliar faces and names. So, in the spirit of combating my own civic election ignorance, I thought I would do my research on a) what ward I’m in and b) what candidates in my and neighbouring wards have to say about arts and culture.

As it turns out, I’m in Ward 9 (which I found out thanks to this city of Calgary ward finder).

Local artist Sam Hester's cartoon about Gian-Carlo's campaign trail

Local artist Sam Hester’s cartoon about Gian-Carlo’s campaign trail

Ward 9 runs from TuxedoPark all the way to Acadia. In my ward Gian-Carlo Carra is running for re-election against Jordan KatzDarwin Lahue, Stan Waciak, and Richard Wilkie.

Since I try to focus this blog on arts and culture, I was curious to figure out what my ward’s candidates, and the candidates from the city’s core, had to say about budgeting and advocacy for the arts. Carra’s profile immediately intrigued me, and not only because he was on Sesame Street as a kid. Although, some could argue, that that could be grounds enough for re-election. Carra spent many of his formative years in New York and graduated from LaGuardia Arts School, has a B.A. in history, and an Urban Design degree. All of the signs read Carra supports the arts.

A useful website on the topic of Calgary Votes 2013 and the arts is artsvote. It outlines why it is important for artists and voters in general to be having conversations with candidates about their position on arts and culture. Candidates have an opportunity to fill out a survey about their stance and submit it to the artsvote website. For Ward 9, Carra is the only candidate who has filled out the survey. Here is more evidence that Carra suports the arts:

“...before being elected I pioneered the granting of spaces to artists with the creation of Pith Gallery and Studios and I fought hard against all kinds of regulatory barriers in support of the creation of the Inglewood Art Block and it’s amazing Esker Gallery. “

Druh Farrell's twitter profile picture

Druh Farrell’s twitter profile picture

The other wards I was interested in checking out were the central wards of 7 & 8. In Ward 7 Druh Farrell is the current Alderman. Aside from her fabulous first name, Farrell has made some impressive contributions to the city in her 4-years as Alderman. Most relevant to the arts is her work with the Heritage Strategy which aims to preserve historic sites. For Ward 7, 3 out of 4 candidates had taken the artsvote survey. Running against Farrell are Brent AlexanderJoylin Nodwell, and Kevin Taylor.

A memorable quote from Farrell’s survey:

“I was one of three members of Council who helped establish the Calgary Arts Development Authority and the City’s arts strategy.”

Ward 8‘s current Alderman is John Mar. He is running against Evan Woolley and

Caricature of Mar from a critical FFwd article last October

Caricature of Mar from a critical FFwd article last October

Ian Newman.  All three participated in the artsvote survey. All three candidates say investing in the arts valuable.

Some memorable quotes from Ward 8 include:

“…for the past three consecutive years, I was proud to have supported the Calgary ArtsPlan which will ensure that we have a consistent and long term plan for reinvesting in our Arts community.” ~ John Mar

“As the Transportation Director for Sled Island Music & Arts festival for over 5 years I worked hard to promote local musicians, as well as the city of Calgary as a growing cultural centre.” ~Evan Woolley

Mandy Stobo's Nenshi Flood Relief Portrait

Mandy Stobo’s Nenshi Flood Relief Portrait

Finally, I was curious about what the mayor, Naheed Nenshi, had to say about the arts. Nenshi seems passionate about the arts and combines this with his push for secondary suite allowance when he says, “It is so important that we create multi housing options for citizens. We need safe and affordable housing to encourage the arts.” (artsvote)

Another memorable quote by Nenshi about the arts is, “I have been a supporter of the arts in Calgary my whole life, having served as Chair of the EPCOR CENTRE, and having done graduate work in the area of nonprofit arts management.”

Candidates in the downtown core and their stances on the arts, alongside other important issues such as improving public transportation and affordable housing, continue to influence voters. Some useful tools to be an informed voter on the issues that are important to you are:

The Voter’s Tool Kit 

Artsvote Calgary

City of Calgary

Vote Calgary

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Games of Summer

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Slomp Farm Croquet in Dandelions 

In a state of extended writer’s block, I thought I would post some artifacts from the summer of lawn sports.

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Paul donning plaid at Commissioner’s Park in Ottawa

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George letting us in on the rules of Takraw.

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Having a go of the ring toss at Heritage Park, Calgary.

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A Guide to Public Gardens in Calgary- where the grass really is greener.

As the seasons changed from winter to summer overnight, so changed Calgary’s vegetation from dormant to vibrant. I’ve always enjoyed visiting gardens in some of the other cities I’ve lived in: Montreal’s Botanical Gardens, Edmonton’s Muttart Conservatory, and Vancouver’s Van Dusen Gardens. And so I went forth to discover some of Calgary’s gardens accessible to the public.

The first public garden that I visited in Calgary last fall was the Reader Rock Garden. I happened upon it serendipitously, as I like to do, and locked my bike to take a closer look. I was amazed by what Parks Superintendent William Reader had done on this hill at the beginning of the last century. Of English origin, he believed that Calgary’s cold climate didn’t have to limit the types of plants that could grow here and worked to emulate some of the gardens found across the pond. Therefore he first planted tall evergreens around his property to protect the gardens. Then he fashioned the hill on which his house stood into steps dispersed with rock and waterfalls. He then crossed different varieties of flowers and plants to see which could survive the harsh Alberta climate. Photo Credit

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Without much research, I later stumbled upon Calgary’s Devonian Gardens because they’re centrally located in Scotia Place. It’s a great escape from the nightmare mall shopping can be. These Devonian Garden’s, meaning it primarily is filled with plants that existed in the Devonian period (408 million years ago), have recently been modernized. The face life includes beautiful ponds complete with fountains and coi fish, plentiful seating, natural lighting (despite what the photos suggest), traditional west coast masks, a playground, and even educational programs.IMG_0971
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Though the Devonian Garden is a great source of chlorophyl in the winter months, I was craving the great outdoors and I recalled seeing a lovely kept garden in Inglewood. The Deane House, Fort Calgary’s restaurant, is a historical site along 9th avenue. And, although the garden is small, it is a perfect example of a manicured green space for the public to enjoy and to give ideas to Calgary’s citizens as to what actually can grow here.

IMG_0933The Deane HouseFrom The Deane House I pedalled forth to Peter Lougheed House where “the gardens have long been a sanctuary of peace” in the middle of Calgary’s busy downtown core. It is bigger than the Deane House’s landscape but has the same pretentious sophistication only the beginning of the last century can get away with. When I showed a friend these photographs she thought at first that they were taken somewhere in Europe which proves that there is certainly some architecture Calgary can be boastful of. What is unique about this garden is that it is terraced and therefore has plenty of lawn space perfect for picnicking while providing shelter and an intimate ambiance. Peter Lougheed HousePeter Lougheed HousePeter Lougheed HouseOn a random ride home up 10th street NW I rode past Riley Park and noticed the Senator Patrick Burns Memorial Rock Garden. This garden is attached to a great family park complete with a wading pool and cricket pitches. The Senator was locally revered as he was a long time Calgary rancher and one of the four founders of the Calgary Stampede. The flagstones used in the garden are from the remains of his mansion!

Senator Patrick Burns Rock GardenSenator Patrick Burns Rock GardenSenator Patrick Burns Rock Garden Somehow, when I was researching parks and gardens in Calgary, “Ralph Klein Park” kept coming up. Someone even told me that the location was so beautiful that their friends tried to book their wedding there. I had to go discover this new park for myself, even though its name was a deterrent at first. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get there on my bicycle. In fact, even in a vehicle it was difficult to access because it was in the middle of an industrial park. When I got there I was expecting manicured gardens and impressive shrubbery which is why you can’t make assumptions about things you don’t know anything about. The “park” consisted of two modern buildings surrounded by natural wetlands. I strolled around and came across a geo cache, one of many I later found out, some signage on the surrounding wetlands, a young apple orchard, some picnic tables and an incredible waterfall, which was by far this park’s redeeming feature.

Ralph Klein ParkRalph Klein ParkAnd thus my public garden tour was brought to a close but I came across a few other sights that are definitely worth a gander:

Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

Pearce Estate Park

Calgary Zoo Botanical Garden

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