The Arts scene in Airdrie, Alberta is on fire these days, but I want you to know, “we didn’t start the fire.”
Background - Airdrie is a city situated just north of Calgary and has a population of 43,000. In 2010, Airdrie grew more than 8% and has averaged a blistering level of growth for over a decade. Despite this surge of growth in our own backyard, Calgary continues to cast a large shadow over our community and impacting the work and play activities of our residents. Over the years there have been a growing number of residents who want to develop a more creative community to help entice their neighbors to stay in Airdrie to fulfill their employment and entertainment and leisure needs. This movement recently reared its artistic head at our last council meeting where a flash mob broke out which was coordinated by The Creative Airdrie Society. The Society came forward requesting funding for their planned Alberta Art Days activities and rebranding September as ARTember in Airdrie where they were successful with their dance moves and funding request.
As many communities can relate, stepping away from an image of a satellite or bedroom community is a difficult image to shake. Using ourselves as an example, a recent Needs Assessment Survey indicated that the top reasons people leave our community is to participate in Arts/Cultural related activities. News of this has made the collective lemons of our community seem that much more how I shall say TART; but the community chose to save their tears for another day. With great challenges comes great opportunity and embracing the arts and showcasing the very best of our community is a challenge the community appears to be ready to take on.
The idea of branding the better part of September as ARTember came from various community visionaries in Airdrie who committed themselves to forming the Creative AirdrieSociety and ultimately being the catalyst for creating a vibrant and creative community. The Society’s board includes members of the business community, an artist, a philanthropist, a real estate professional, a publisher of a local magazine and yes they even recruited a lawyer. All board members are drumming to the same beat and using their various levels of expertise and contacts to forge ahead with all things Arts in Airdrie.
Having the community as a primary driver of Arts comes with its share of challenges. Questions such as; will the Arts be watered down with too much corporate influence? Will there be conflict of interests with juried art competitions? Or a variety of other control (or lack thereof control issues). The important thing for us to help mitigate some of the above questions is to keep a healthy relationship between the municipality and the group and discuss any concerns in an open and honest way.
Looking back, what set the community ablaze with Arts was a few very motivated community members who were interested in voluntarily engaging themselves and committing their time, money and energy into building a creative community. ARTember is just the beginning, through their various activities the group has quickly become an example of what is artistically possible in Airdrie and as it is well noted, “Example has more followers than reason.” — Christian Nestell Bovee
- Michael McAllister is a Community Developer with the City of Airdrie, AB
For more information on ARTember and The Creative Airdrie Society visit http://www.creativeairdrie.ca/