The Whyte Avenue Art Walk is a summertime staple in Old Strathcona — one of Edmonton’s oldest and most historic neighbourhoods.
Think of Old Strathcona like the western Canadian version of Old Quebec, except 300 years younger, no walls, mostly English speaking, and lacking anything resembling stone architecture. So, nothing like Old Quebec. But still old by western Canadian, prairie standards.
The Art Walk is one of the many mid-summer events that reinvigorates the former commercial core of the prairie city we call home.
Art Walks aren’t exclusive to the western Canadian prairie though. They pop up in cities across North America — Los Angeles, Miami, and Seattle are among the heavyweights — and are wonderful places filled with incredible artists.
There is something majestically ironic about artists using mostly bland-coloured tents to promote their work.
Row upon row of white, black, and occasionally tan-coloured tents uniformly outline parks and perfectly split streets in 10-foot intervals. The scene is reminiscent of a medieval Renaissance faire. And there is something majestically ironic about artists using mostly bland-coloured tents to promote their work.
There wasn’t an Art Walk in our prairie city last year. Amidst a global pandemic, its cancellation left a calm hole in our annual family calendar.
This year, things are different. There will be an Art Walk. I will bid farewell to our typically calm house. The craziness will return, steaming full bore down the tracks.
Stay out of her way. Get the kids out of her hair. Make sure dinners are cooked, laundry is washed, and the path to the studio is clear. It’s a remarkable time. Truly, it is. To be a fly on the wall would be a striking experience.
However, the normally outdoor Art Walk is scheduled to be indoors. It will still be in Old Strathcona. Oh, and, it will be held over multiple weekends.
I remember the moment when she told me, without a hint of remorse.
“Every weekend all summer,” she said, not even a glimmer of contrition in her sparkling eyes.
It came out of nowhere like an Edmonton Oilers playoff sweep at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets, but I kept my best poker face. After all, this was about the business of art. My wife needs to market and sell her art, and there have been precious few, in-person opportunities to do that during a pandemic. Who knew?
In facing this stark reality of multiple weekends, I kept calm. But I did not carry on. I stood as still as a tent peg staring at my wife gently seated in her favourite blue easy chair in the corner of our living room with one leg tucked underneath the other. I waited for other shoe to drop.
It felt like an eternity, but no more shoes dropped.
My wife’s next sentence provided mercy to our family.
“But I’m only doing one weekend,” she said, those sparkling eyes now glimmering with the satisfaction of her merciful decision.
My poker face broke into a mental fist pump. The calmness would be gone again, the kids would be out of her hair, and the path to the studio would be cleared. Yet, despite nothing changing from previous years, this felt like a win.
And, in some gnarled way, I wondered why we couldn’t do more weekends to make up for opportunities lost to the pandemic. That’s what being married to an artist does to you. Who needs one crazy train when you can have multiple?