I've been covering music and the arts for Vue for a mind-boggling-now-that-I-count-it six years. In that time, I've been called everything from a vital supporter of our artistic community to an ignorant asshole, occasionally for the same story. I have seen and heard work from local artists that I would gladly stack up against anything the world has to offer and things I literally could not be paid to experience again.
Far less important to me than sussing out the good from the bad, though, was providing Edmontonians—artists or otherwise—with some perspective on how our art fits into our world around us. However it's appeared over the years, I've always aimed to support the Edmonton scene in all its forms: the way I think you do that, though, is by thoughtful and engaged criticism, not the mindless boosterism that too often plagues our city, especially at the higher levels.
I don't think we need to be coy about the fact that Edmonton is a hard place to live, especially if you're an artist: attention to our distant outpost is fleeting, and though some talented folks manage to break through, many more will be overlooked, denied the opportunities that greets similarily talented artists in larger centres. This lack of attention grants a certain freedom that shouldn't be overlooked, but it will forever be a struggle to make a wider impression (never mind a living) from Edmonton. Still, the best way to serve a scene like ours is to hold it to our highest standards. That means being effusive with praise when something meets them, but also (and maybe especially) holding them to task when they don't.
I will grant this might read as self-justification, but so be it. The only criticism that has ever stung me was when it was suggested that I didn't care about the city, didn't support it enough. I want the best for this city—something, ironically, I feel acutely as I'm getting prepared to leave it—and one never, ever accomplishes that by settling for good enough.
Put another way, though, maybe this whole farewell should read thusly: please take care of my city while I'm gone. V