By: Jory Proft
After another year of high attendance numbers at the Deep Freeze: A Byzantine Winter Festival, the community continues to show its commitment to change the reputation of Alberta Avenue.
A major part of the stigma surrounding the area is based off its crime statistic. The Edmonton Police Service divides the city into 391 areas and Alberta Ave regularly sits just outside the top five areas in reported crimes.
Alberta Ave is generally considered the area of 118th Avenue from NAIT to Northlands.
Despite the statistics, Alberta Ave is going through a revitalization and many residents are working hard to create a better image for their community.
A resident of the area, Carissa Halton, wrote Little Yellow House that tells the story of what she heard about the area versus her actual experience living in the community with her young family.
“I just wanted to explore what it was really like living in this neighborhood, to try to strip away some of the bias and the impressions and really explore what people were afraid of,” said Halton. “What was legitimate fear [and] what was fear based on stereotypes?”
Other groups such as Arts on the Ave and The Rat Creek Press are also working to aid the revitalization of the area.
“Arts on the Ave Edmonton Society is a registered non-profit, charity organization engaged in developing Alberta Avenue into a community arts district,” says the Arts on the Ave website.
The group is based out of The Carrot Community Arts Coffehouse, a volunteerrun coffee shop in the community. The group organizes events such as the aforementioned Deep Freeze Festival as well as the Kaleido Family Arts Festival. The yearly events are meant to celebrate the area and the work of artists of all kinds who collaborate and create in Alberta Ave.
The Rat Creek Press, the community’s monthly newspaper is another group dedicated to accurately representing the avenue.
“A community newspaper is essential to the revitalization of a community. Initially when I came on, what was really important to us was giving a positive portrayal of the neighbourhood and showing others what we see in our neighbourhood… But the mainstream media would always focus on the negative things — it certainly gives this skewed perspective to people outside and inside the neighbourhood, ” said the publisher of the Rat Creek Press, Karen Mykietka.
Mykietka has long been an active member of the community, not only with the Rat Creek Press, but also through her work with the Alberta Avenue Community League.
Both Halton and Mykietka had impressions of the area that were not overly-favorable before living in it.
“I felt very much intimidated by the street [when first visiting]. You sometimes have active sex and drug trade that can be intimidating [when] not being sure how to handle it,” said Halton.
“I’m not sure I knew much about it [Alberta Ave] outside of going to K-Days. I had a general sense of the area being a bit more low-income or rundown, having issues with prostitution,” said Mykietka.
Despite the stigma, both Halton and Mykietka’s experiences have been different from the common expectations for the community and that is what inspired them to share their love for their neighborhood.
Both Mykietka and Halton have high hopes for their community moving forward.
“We’re hoping the city approves continued revitalization funding. We’ve had the luxury of having that funding and support for the last 10 years and it’s been really helpful in initiating and growing things,” said Mykietka.
“I hope as infill and new people with money come that they remember that this is a neighborhood with a lot of diversity and it’s their responsibility to try and support the whole range of people that live here,” said Halton.