From Where I Sit – Whyte Avenue

Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue is all you’ve heard. And more. I’ve had the opportunity to see it up close and personal.

As a painter, I was seeking exposure and sales of my paintings during past Art Walks. I skipped this year’s because of wedding plans.

Participation involves displaying art works in pre-assigned spaces along the trendiest part of Whyte Avenue during the course of a July weekend. Merchant co-operation and hospitality towards the artist is key to making the weekend a success from a logistics and facility standpoint.

Art Walk is not without its challenges. The unpredictability of the weather, in past summers, was a huge factor. Mother Nature kept us guessing and on stand-by—ready to batten down the hatches as winds gusted or enclose paintings in plastic as rain threatened or provide shelter from the blazing sun.

Add my three hours total driving time to the length of each day and you’ve got one tired mama.

Before too many hours had passed the first day I realized the incessant din of four lanes of traffic were wearing on me. I was unconsciously scrunching and tightening my neck and shoulders against the roar of second-hand music, the gunning of motorcycles, the diesel fumes of transit buses and delivery trucks. It made this country girl long for the peace and quiet of the farm with just the occasional birdsong and insect hum.

Even the schmoozing with the public, normally a very pleasant, ego-stroking aspect of art shows, began to feel like work.

The ambience of Whyte Avenue is a combination of eclectic shops and exotic people. It’s an interesting mix of hip, young fashionistas, well-dressed seniors, young parents and the outrageous. The sidewalks themselves are teeming with activity. Babies in strollers with no hats or sunglasses. A girl in army surplus clothes carrying her cat in a tote bag. A guy walking his three-legged dog. Skateboarders and cyclists defying bylaws and common sense by weaving through the crowds on the sidewalks. Dogs of every size and description. The affluent and the idle. The retired and the unemployed.

Whyte Avenue is a people watcher’s paradise. Short shorts, belly tops, rainbow hair colors, thigh high leather boots, exposed lingerie, shoes of every conceivable style. Not to mention the tattoos and piercings.

Reading the body language of families is fun. The battle of wits between toddlers, tweens or teens and their parents. The fight for control or more money or special permission. The celebration by the kid who wins coupled with a parent too tired to fight.

A return the next morning shows evidence of Whyte Avenue’s darker side. Merchants with brooms and cleaners trying to clean up broken beer bottles and butts and worse.

The area has had its share of problems but remains a popular destination. If you have the chance, visit Whyte Ave and check out the sights and sounds. Have a cappuccino or Booster Juice, walk your dog, buy some art. From where I sit.

*Reprinted with permission

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