Earlier this year I did some graphic recording at a symposium put together by the City of Edmonton and Edmonton's Urban Development Institute. I just came across some pictures taken by the event photographer, David Rauch (take a look here to see them. They are great!) I'm going to put some up here because I actually don't have any pictures of that poster and I enjoyed remembering how much fun this was to draw. Thanks for posting these pictures, David!!
P.S. Looking at David Rauch's photographs leads me to discover that he seems to be the man behind the very cool OpenPianoYEG, "Edmonton's first outdoor public piano project" (of which more here). Wow! I love this idea. And I know of an old upright piano which needs a home soon... or else! Could this kind of thing happen in Calgary? Is this a project for "find it" (of Inglewood & Ramsay pop-up event notoriety)? Oh... I'd better get to sleep before I start getting too inspired by all the possibilities! More soon!
I live in Calgary. But when I was invited, a few months back, to contribute some graphic recording to a City of Edmonton initiative, I was really pleased to do so - and not only because it meant I'd be able to count on free babysitting from my in-laws. (That's my baby under the "welcome" sign!)
I was actually excited to learn about Evolving Infill, a City-led "collaborative project that is aiming to create an Infill Action Plan to shape the City’s plan to advance Infill." Infill housing is happening, whether people like it or not (and not just in Edmonton). The City of Edmonton is hosting a conversation between citizens from every different side of the story, gathering up as much information as possible from real people, in order to make the process better for everyone.
That's my short version of what the Evolving Infill team is doing - but you can find out much more about it on their website.
I happen to love this kind of project. I love civic engagement (one word: VoteKit!!!), and I love good urban design that makes for walkable and multi-generational neighbourhoods (if you actually make it through this whole post, you'll see a comic strip I wrote on this subject a while back - from which, a little snippet here). And, well, I love eavesdropping on interesting conversations.
And I have to say, speaking as a Calgarian who came to love Calgary by the long way around (here's a bit on that subject, in this post about Calgary books), I kind of love Edmonton, too.
I mean, it's cold, it's got a layout that's more messed-up than you'd think would be possible considering it's on a grid, it's full of all these passionate small-L (and big-L, I guess) liberal thinking artsy unpretentious educated culture-loving citizens, it's famous for its potholes, there's that insane bridge, and it's got the best Indian food outside of Bradford, UK (although its most beloved local dish is apparently the green onion cake). What's not to love?
Throughout the four days I've spent so far with Edmonton's Infill Action Collaborative (of whom more below), I found myself wishing I knew more about the nuances of Edmonton's city scene. A lot of what I heard sounds like what's going on in Calgary, too (although, interestingly enough, there are some big differences - for example, in Calgary there's still this ongoing debate about legalizing secondary suites (here's a passionate contribution to the debate by blogger Mike Morrison), whereas in Edmonton, these are accepted fare).
Anyway - here's my fly-on-the-wall view of this very cool Edmonton project.
Meet the Infill Action Collaborative
In "Step 1" of Evolving Infill (last year), project leaders gathered "infill stories" from citizens. Right now they're in the middle of "Step 2," and here's what their website says about that:
That's City Planner Jeff Chase up there, speaking to the Infill Action Collaborative at their first workshop. Next, everyone introduced themselves, and while they were at it, mentioned their favourite kitchen utensil. I managed to catch most of them!
Dave Robertson, by the way, who's the principal at Calgary's Mistri Consulting, is leading these workshops, and he is the person who invited me to collaborate with him in doing so. Thanks Dave!
By the end of our second workshop, the group had worked through a lot of information. Here's Dave (above) leading a discussion about all of the stuff on the posters you can see behind him! Group participants discussed various "infill stories" (some that they came up with themselves, and others that had been contributed by Edmontonians during "Step 1" of the project).
They talked about challenges and obstacles for the infill process - from many points of view (i.e. speaking as neighbours, developers, realtors, architects, planners, builders, you name it!)
Oh, and another point of view that was pretty important in these discussions was that of "Community League" members. I had no idea that these neighbourhood organizations, which in Calgary are known as "Community Associations," are called "Leagues" in Edmonton.
I couldn't stop thinking of "The Adventure of the Red-Headed (Community) League" - ha ha.
Anyway, the group worked through infill stories, challenges and obstacles to the current process, and also listed their hopes and aspirations for the infill system. Plus, they drafted eight statements that they felt summed up what was happening in Edmonton infill currently. And all of this went on to a poster - details below.
Two random notes: First, a shout out to Under the High Wheel, the caterers who brought some really tasty food to the workshops. Now I know where I'll be going, the next time I have the chance to eat out in Edmonton!
And second: I was not the only one taking creative notes during all this. I noticed one of the Infill Action Collaborative participants, Geoff Abma, taking really lovely notes in his sketchbook, and I asked if I could take some pictures of them (here they are, below). (He has a pretty cool website, too.)
I really love sketchnotes. As a total aside, I recently took a look at some other great sketchnotes by Dave Wittekind from Chicago. And take a look at these truly amazing sketchnotes by Vancouver-based Brad Ovenell-Carter! If you can believe it, I'm actually supposed to do a graphic recording of a talk he'll be giving in Calgary in May (at the InnovateWest Conference). Um, just a little intimidating!!!
McKay Avenue School
But now, back to Evolving Infill for a few pictures from our amazing venue: the former McKay Avenue School in downtown Edmonton, which now houses the Edmonton Public Schools Archives & Museum.
Notes about the photos below: The golden-doored elevator reminded me of the elevator in the Calgary Public Building (there's a photo of it in this post). The pink couch was in the "powder room!" And what's with the painting in the hinged frame? Is it just so you can slide the picture into the frame? Or is it so that you can hide some classified document in there? (Shades of "The Secret Adversary.")
On my way to one workshop I listened to some glorious organ music on the radio (thanks, CKUA) and was delighted to find an actual organ at the venue when I arrived. The placard says it was donated by the grandson of William F. Puffer, Member of the erstwhile Alberta Provincial Parliament. I looked him up just because I liked his name (I liked the organ, too) - sounds like he was quite a progressive fellow. Ah, so much Edmonton history, so little time!
At the third workshop, the Infill Action Collaborative spent a lot of time in breakout groups coming up with strategies for supporting the evolution of established neighbourhoods through infill development.
Here is something else I noticed while drawing all these folks: almost all the women were wearing scarves. It seemed as though every time I turned around to draw someone, I'd see another scarf! And this was the case, not only on the three different days I worked with this group, but with all the women at the Infill Action Review (coming up below). What's the deal, Edmonton women? I know it's cold in your city (and yes, it was kinda chilly in the McKay Avenue School, too), but what about cardigans, turtlenecks, shawls? I have been to other cold cities, but I didn't notice anything like this.
Is the scarf a ubiquitous Edmonton winter fashion element I just didn't know about? A civic statement that says "Edmonton" just like the green onion cake? I'm kind of intrigued.
Anyway, here is the poster that came out of the group presentations about infill strategies.
Graphic recorder based in Calgary. I like local stories. I write comics when I have free time. And I leave eraser shavings everywhere I go.
Looking for a
Some nice things people said about my work:
“If Breitkreuz and Foong [founders of the Calgary Comics & Entertainment Expo] represent the Type-A side of Calgary's self-publishing community, Hester may be the community's right brain.” – Tom Babin, FFWD Magazine
“…A strong graphic style similar to other autobiographically-inclined Canadian cartoonists like Chester Brown and Julie Doucet.” – Gilbert Bouchard, Edmonton Journal
The 23rd Story: an indie comics creator's tales of life in Calgary