Arts on the Ave: Taking Up Street Space

Arts on the Ave: Taking Up Street Space 

As a proud Edmontonian, I like to think that we have a vibrant and ever-growing arts and culture scene here in our city. The International Fringe Festival, Heritage days, and the Edmonton Folk Festival get a lot of attention and bring in the biggest crowds. While I can confirm that they are definitely worth the hype, there are so many other festivals in Edmonton that I feel deserve the same kind of attention. The Kaleido festival is one of those hidden gems.

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The Kaleido Family Arts Festival is a local, community-oriented festival held at the beginning of every September. The usually busy, traffic-filled 118th Avenue, located on the North-Side of downtown, is closed for the weekend to host singers, dancers, drummers, painters, actors, stilt-walkers, sculptors, wood carvers and more. Brought to life by the community organization ‘Arts on the Ave’, the festival was started 14 years ago and it continues to grow every year.

The Kaleido Family Arts Festival uses their space to its capacity. You cannot walk more than 5 steps without running into the next piece of art or a jamming musician. Every alleyway, green space, parking lot, and wall is being used for something or other. The sounds of Jazz music streams out of the Jazz Alley between 93rd and 94th street while the Unity project, an interactive art installation, sits on a usually empty lot on the corner of 92nd street. Walls are being muralled or filled with photographs of people and the street itself is covered in chalk art. 

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Artists mural the walls of a building on the corner of 91st and 118th avenue.

The Jazz Alley features many different musicians. Bare Bones Brass Band, Ethan Tonack and Jamie Philp were some of this year’s Alberta-based musicians playing. This particular venue is tucked between two buildings and creates an oasis of Jazz separate from the energy of the rest of the festival. At night, the music continues and the walls are lit up to create a beautiful light installation. 

The Unity Project [pictured below], sponsored by ATB Financial, is an interactive installation that invites people to come and use yarn to string together their story while relating to others in the process. Picture a giant knitting loom that people are constantly adding to throughout the weekend. The idea is that people start in the center, then weave around the labeled posts they relate to on the edge before returning back to center - creating a beautifully mismatched canopy of yarn. 

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The Unity Project

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Kaleido is the perfect example of local pride. Many of the businesses bordering 118th Avenue are involved and engaged with the festival. The Carrot Community Arts Coffeehouse has set up couches outside of the café to serve people treats and coffee. Bedouin Beats has a stage set up on 94th street to showcase their belly dancing performances. The Nina Haggerty Art Space has shared their walls to create a collage of faces while their inside space hosts performances throughout the weekend. The whole community seems to either spill out onto the street, or welcome people to discover, create, and celebrate.

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A belly dancer at the Bedouin Beats stage

Cindy Paul [pictured below right] is a Cree/Metis artist that performed at the Takwakin Village Stage on Saturday. 

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The festival has different venues scattered throughout the five-block area, ranging in size and shape from the Avenue Central Stage to the Kaleido Yurt – no two venues are the same. 

Kaleido creatively incorporates the neighbourhood and community in a way that I have not seen before in their Front Porch Music Series. With 7 different musicians and 4 different front porches, people gathered at pop-up locations on friendly neighbourhood porches to enjoy an intimate and unique music session. 

The Kaleido festival is a great example of a festival that unifies the community while spotlighting diverse artists through opportunities for expression and performance. Kaleido uses all that 118th Avenue has to offer, highlighting the cultural richness and community strength while breaking down the often-negative outlook the public holds towards the Ave. They provide opportunities to local artists and engage local businesses. Kaleido Festival is only continuing to grow and it deserves recognition and kudos for all they have accomplished so far. 

You can find more information on the Kaleido family Arts Festival website here or at Arts on the Ave website here Arts on the Ave also hosts the Deep Freeze festival in January, a Byzantine Winter Festival in the same space as Kaleido. Be sure to check that one out for a lively remedy of the winter blues. More information can be found at

By Bronwyn Neufeld