#YEG: Wayne Arthurson

Where the artist doesn’t feel like a second-class citizen.

Illustration Robert Carter

I grew up in Calgary, but moved here in 1992. Many of my old Calgarian friends, and others who live in other cities, still ask me why I live here.

I tell them this: Whenever I inform another Edmontonian that I’m an artist – a writer¬† – I don’t get that sideways glance. No one ever says, “No, no. What do you really do?”

Edmontonians? They ask if I’ve had any books published. They ask if they can buy them at Audreys or Greenwoods’. I discovered very quickly, that in Edmonton, it’s not considered unusual, weird or strange to be an artist.

Geography plays a major role. Ask average Calgarians what’s great about their city and they’ll mention the Rockies. Edmontonians don’t have that luxury. So we’re more apt to do something recreational within the city limits. Some of that is arts-related, either attending an event or developing our artistic skills. Our long, dark winters are very amenable to creating art. Our summers, on the other hand, are filled with festivals, which is also very amenable to developing creativity.

We’re also more isolated. So the appearance of more internationally known musicians, authors, painters, dancers and others, along with arts spectacles such as major Broadway-style productions, travelling art shows and the like, are more rare here than in cities like Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver.¬† So Edmontonians work a bit harder to discover art in their midst, be it a rock show, a dance performance, or whatever. Most of what they discover is local.

And, mostly, audiences are impressed by this local art. They understand that it takes hard work to create this stuff. Edmontonians of all stripes have a great appreciation of a strong work ethic.

So that appreciation compels artists to create more art. It also creates politicians who like art and are more apt to fund it. Which allows for more art, which attracts more Edmontonians, which in turn allows for more art, which … See what I’m getting at?

Arts and the artists that create it are part of the fabric, the basic DNA, that is My Edmonton.

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