LIVING HISTORY AND ARTISTS COME TOGETHER IN MILL WOODS

LIVING HISTORY AND ARTISTS COME TOGETHER IN MILL WOODS
Jannie Edwards

I have a confession to make. Even though I have lived in Mill Woods for decades, I have been a virtual stranger to my community.

My husband and I moved to a condo in Michael’s Park in 1980. Our three daughters grew up here and went to neighbourhood schools, and my husband Mark taught music at Holy Family School and then was a counsellor at Holy Trinity High School. I was a faculty member at Grant MacEwan College (now University), and even though I live five minutes drive from the Mill Woods campus, all my teaching and administrating was at the City Centre and west end campuses. We moved from our condo to our house in Michael’s Park on the day of the Edmonton tornado in 1987. So given all that, how, you might ask, do I consider myself a stranger to this community?
Good question. I am a poet and editor with long-term connections with the Edmonton arts community. Yet when Don Bouzek, Creative Director of Ground Zero Productions, approached me about becoming involved in a project to collect the living history of Mill Woods and network with this community’s artists, I was hard pressed to name one artist I knew here. There you have it. An embarrassing confession.
But happily, that is about to change dramatically. Fuelled by support from a city-wide initiative called the Living Local project, I have become part of a grassroots team that will bring together the creative people of Mill Woods so that the heart and soul of this community can be expressed. Mill Woods as a vibrant hub for art and culture? You bet.

Last November, my teammate Rodrigo Loyola and I put the call out for creative people living or working in Mill Woods to come together to dream and scheme. Rod came to Mill Woods at age two with his family, refugees from the violent coup in Chile in 1973. He has deep roots in Mill Woods – he grew up here, and has chosen to raise his own family here in the Knottwood community. A member of the hip hop group The People’s Poets, he’s a great animator of social justice and cultural projects. A dozen people answered our call, and we met at the Mill Woods branch of the Edmonton Public Library on a chilly November evening to brainstorm. After introducing ourselves, we each imagined our three top wishes for arts engagement in Mill Woods. This produced an ambitious wish list which ranged from “a performing arts theatre in Mill Woods” to “an outdoor music festival” to “an artists cabaret” to “intergenerational arts events” to “awareness of indigenous peoples’ concerns and culture.”
Right away, Rod Loyola went to work to establish a Facebook presence for the Mill Woods Artists Collective (check us out on Facebook), and a linked blog on WordPress that records our progress.

At our next meeting on January 19th, each person got four “votes” to help us prioritize our wish list into short, medium and long-range goals. Our immediate goal is to plan an artists cabaret featuring Mill Woods artists. Mark the date for the first Mill Woods Artists Cabaret: Friday, June 1 at the Southwood Community Hall, 1880 – 37th Street. Stay tuned for how you can get involved.

Get Involved in the Mill Woods Artists Collective
Be part of this exciting team. The Mill Woods Artists Collective is looking for new members – our next meeting is Thursday, February 23, 7- 9 p.m. in the Program Room of the Mill Woods branch of the Edmonton Public Library in the Mill Woods Town Centre Mall. If you are a creative person at any stage of your journey, come to this meeting. We`re looking for dancers, musicians, writers, visual artists and arts organizers, and art lovers. For more information, you can contact me at jannieedwards@gmail.com
Living History of Mill Woods

The other major goal of this project is to begin to collect the stories of the people and the vision of this community—from the aboriginal presence on this land , to the unique urban plan of the early 1970s, to the waves of immigration that give Mill Woods its sense of vibrant diversity. Historian Catherine Cole and video/theatre producer Don Bouzek facilitated a workshop on conducting oral history interviews at the Knottwood Community Hall on Saturday, February 11. Don Bouzek and Rod Loyola will follow up on this workshop with a full-day session on digital storytelling. The first phase of this work will be a six-panel exhibit to be launched at the Mill Woods Canada Day celebrations. The exhibit will then travel around the community to schools and community leagues. For more information about these workshops, you can email Rod Loyola at rosouljah@gmail.com

Jannie Edwards is the 2011-12 Northern Alberta Writer in Residence for the Canadian Authors Association. She is available for consultation with writers in all genres. Contact Jannie at ewir@canauthorsalberta.ca