On Sunday October 25 my staff and I hosted Arts Day at the Wildflower Arts Centre. We invited all the residents of neighbouring Shaganappi Village for a free east African lunch, a live Afrobeats DJ, workshops for painting, sculpture, nature printing and dance, and an amazing drum circle to finish it all off. Turnout was incredible, and the event was a huge success. It was a great privilege to watch kids learn about their community, their culture, and how to express themselves through multiple mediums. And, of course, it was one heck of a lot of fun!
My office engaged with the community of Shaganappi Village for months to make this happen, and I hope that our work serves as a model for similar programs in the future. We hired professional local artists not only to share their skills on Arts Day itself, but to work with the community beforehand so that what was done on the day was reflective of the people, their culture and their community. We also asked folks to create their own art and showcase it on the day: this came in the form of visual art by the students of Families Matter, a traditional South Sudanese dance by female members of the community, and two knitted quilts that were presented at the end of the day -- one of which stated, powerfully, "United".
This sort of work is complex and challenging, and it takes a long time to build -- but it is also immensely rewarding, both for me and for everyone involved, and it is critical as we develop our communities in Calgary. Art is a bridge across cultures, neighbourhoods, people and politics, and this was so clearly demonstrated on Sunday. As Ward 8 Councillor I am committed to building such bridges, making these kind of connections, and strengthening our communities in exactly this way. I hope to do it again very soon.
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