Oct. 17, 2012 - Issue #887: Dedfest
Inner city spirit
The Avenue re-examines the stigma around Alberta Ave
In the city's inner core, away from the urban sprawl of beige-hued suburbia are a select number of neighbourhoods maintaining unique character, and 118th Ave—or Alberta Avenue, as it's also known—is no exception.
The avenue is a kaleidoscopic blend of culture, arts and people pushing to rid the neighbourhood of its perpetually negative persona and make it known for the eclectic hub it is to those who live there. With the help of local director and actress Jaimie Clements, its story is being told through her new documentary, The Avenue.
Clements has lived in various areas of Edmonton, but she and her partner made the decision to relocate to 118th Ave in 2008, particularly for the affordable housing market. She says her experience during the first year involved getting to know the community and the numerous events taking place on a regular basis.
"It actually reminded me a lot of a small town," says Clements, who is originally from the small community of Shellbrooke, SK. "It just reminded me of home in the way that everybody kind of knows each other. That really used to bug me growing up and I wanted to get away from that, but after moving to that neighbourhood and just kind of getting that full community feel where you walk down the street and say 'Hi' to people ... it really reminded me of small town Saskatchewan and made me miss it."
Clements credits the welcoming community atmosphere as a factor in keeping her in Edmonton, and she began documenting the rich culture and diversity of 118th Ave, the opposite of the reputation it had gained for drugs, crime and prostitution. She believes the image is changing, and wanted to show the rest of the city how people in the 118th Ave community are working to make it a better place to live.
She got to work filming in September 2009, asking people on the street for their thoughts on 118th Ave. Clements noticed the people who had been born and raised in Edmonton had a much more negative view on the community, as opposed to those who had relocated from another city or country. The ones who had lived elsewhere first noted places like The Carrot, the arts scene and the festivals, rather than the negative aspects of the neighbourhood.
Aside from the general public, The Avenue features influential community figures such as Christy Morin, founder of Arts on the Ave; Chris Hayduk of Community Response to Urban Disorder (CRUD); Jim Diers, author of Neighbor Power: Building Community the Seattle Way and Kathleen Quinn, executive director of the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation (CEASE), who shared a new perspective about the women who still work the streets of the 118th Ave area.
"It's part of it and it does give good balance to it. I didn't want it to be all sunshine and rainbows, everything's lovely. In documentaries you can comment on society a little bit as well and get people to think about it, so as people want to revitalize their own communities and make them better, I think it's important to keep the other side of the story in mind," Clements notes.
Overall, Clements hopes Edmontontians can realize the strong sense of community present on 118th Ave and take a look at how they could make the same feeling possible in their own communities, regardless of which part of the city they live in.
"If they're living in a community that maybe doesn't have that great community spirt, or they don't know their neighbours, maybe it would get them to start thinking about how they can create this more vibrant community, and also to give 118th Ave a second chance," she adds.
Wed, Oct 24 (7 pm)
Directed by Jaimie Clements
Metro Cinema at the Garneau
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