Twenty years ago, a few dozen artists gathered on Whyte Avenue to work en plein air—to show off both their work and their process to curious passersby.
Since then, Art Walk has grown into a massive affair spanning an area greater than that occupied by West Edmonton Mall and featuring over 450 artists.
“You see everybody, from people who are just starting out and they’ll have a table with art on it; some people just show their sketchbooks,” says Kim Fjordbotten, owner of Art Walk’s sponsor, the Paint Spot. “The more Art Walks that you do, you gather your more-professional booth, and you have your grid wall and your tents and it’s quite a professional set-up.”
This year’s Art Walk features an homage back to the first one in 1995 with a large mural that’s currently being painted on the back of the Varscona Hotel; the first Art Walk showcased a similarly collaborative mural on the Cosmopolitan Music Society at the other end of Whyte Avenue. The rest of the festival features everything from traditional florals to contemporary graffiti art, along with a comics alley sponsored by Warp One and Happy Harbor Comics, a pop-up market for handmade crafts and a pancake breakfast hosted by Premier Rachel Notley.
“I think it’s neat, not only to see somebody sell work for the first time, but also to see somebody buy work for the first time,” Fjordbotten says. “Just to see how many young kids are out engaging in the art, talking to the artists, critiquing art, buying art. It’s always interesting to see who buys what; it’s never what you expect.”
Ultimately, Art Walk is about exposure: getting the general public to see as much art, and as many different types of art, as possible.
“It’s nice to see that artwork isn’t hiding in closets and under the bed, but it’s out there for people to see,” Fjordbotten notes. “I think it’s nice that people don’t have to be intimidated by going into a gallery; they can just go out and talk to the artist. And if they’re interested in getting started in doing art, you can kind of peek into people’s materials that they’re using, ask them questions—there’s a lot of art teachers out there.”
Fri, Jul 10 – Sun, Jul 12 (10 am – 5 pm daily)
Whyte Avenue between 101 & 108 Street