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Accessible art for all

By Eryn Pinksen

Edmonton continues to surprise me with the abundance of events, festivals and art projects happening within the city every month. I was once one of these students stuck seeing nothing beyond the campus buildings. Now I actively search for the community adventures this city provides.

There is a powerful sense of YEG pride at every event and I love to experience this community pride along with other Edmontonians who flock to free events. I have lived in Edmonton for five years now and the art events this city provides has made it feel more like home than any other address I have known.

In the last few months, Edmonton has launched multiple art-related projects and events that are free to the public. Students should take advantage of the priority that the city has placed on art accessibility.

On a postsecondary campus, we can sometimes feel like we are trapped looking around with tunnel vision. It is easy to get stuck only taking part in campus activities or focusing on studies. However, Edmonton is the ‘City of Festivals’ and there is an emphasis on making arts accessible, especially for students.

On Saturday, Sept. 29 Nuit Blanche returned to the well-lit downtown streets. A night that featured over 30 art installations across more than five blocks of the downtown core. Highlights of the event included a massive illuminated geometric rabbit, an interactive cloud made of light bulbs, and a night market of Edmonton vendors.

In 2015, this event saw over 50,000 people attend, with a plan to repeat the event every second year. However, this event relies heavily on funding from the City of Edmonton and the election in 2017 resulted in a funding issue that caused Nuit Blanche to be postponed.

Funding from the city has often been essential to allow free admission to different art programs. In March 2017, the Edmonton city council approved the decision to provide free admission to postsecondary students at the Art Gallery of Alberta to encourage young adult attendance and increase art accessibility.

This is not only an Edmonton priority, but a priority of the province of Alberta as well. Albertans have long been anticipating the reopening of the new Royal Alberta Museum and they were not disappointed.

The new RAM is owned by the Government of Alberta and they provided 40,000 free admission tickets for the first six days after the grand opening. Half of these tickets were available online and all sold out within six hours of the announcement.

These were available to anyone with access to a computer and even still, they provided the other half for free walk-up admission. They have already seen over 23,000 people of all ages pass through the doors in the first four days of opening.

When I first started in postsecondary I was unaware of all that Edmonton had to offer beyond the zoning limit of my campus. In 2015, Nuit Blanche was one of my introductory experiences to Edmonton’s bustling downtown.

It was beautiful. It was overwhelming. The memory now feels like a blur, but I will never forget the strong sense of community I felt walking around with thousands of Edmontonians all sharing in the this event together. This allowed me to start learning about the full potential of this bright city, beyond the familiar classrooms of my campus.

Art education is not necessary to enjoy art installations and when the city provides free events, students should feel encouraged to participate. While two of these free events were not targeted at students, students are arguably the demographic that can benefit from free events the most.

Connecting with a community reminds you that there is more beyond the walls of your campus and the pages of your textbooks. The city has provided opportunities to engage with art and with other Edmontonians and we need to take advantage.

 

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