Come find your new favourite painting at Whyte Avenue Art Walk where creativity (and dogs) abound

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The mother of all local outdoor art strolls rolls out this weekend, Whyte Avenue Art Walk bouncing back for what could be its largest incarnation yet in its 29th year.

“We’ve been using the line to that it’s Alberta’s largest outdoor studio and gallery,” says festival producer Jill Roszell.

“Because it really is, you know: seven blocks of gallery, of all different kinds of artists who are almost all local.”

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New expressionists to old masters will display tens of thousands of affordable works of all sizes starting Friday morning, the parade of onlookers (that’s you and me) able to peruse and purchase 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. the three days through Sunday.

The neon map, which looks like an abstract doggo, runs 107 Street to 103 Avenue, with legs and feet going up and down every block between.

Whyte Avenue Art Walk
With over 400 participating artists, Art Walk happens in Old Strathcona Friday through Sunday. Photo by Larry Wong /Postmedia

“Imagine a four-kilometre walk through the hearts and minds of artists,” is how Kim Fjordbotten puts it, The Paint Spot’s majordomo and Art Walk’s producer for its first 25 years.

Activate Arts Alberta head Roszell has run the Walk since the first pandemic year with 25 artists behind shop windows, then the hybrid version inside the emptied Army & Navy space in 2021, curating its back-to-the-streets reboot from 300 participating artists in 2022 up to 445 this year.

“The actual work we don’t curate at all,” notes Roszell. “So whatever you want to paint or draw or sculpt or create, it’s all fair game.

“We don’t censor, but as we say, if there’s stuff grandma or kids maybe shouldn’t see,” she laughs, “don’t put it at a kid level.

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“We are still on a public square basically, so obviously we have to be conscientious of the fact that we don’t want to put something that’s completely offensive out there — but you can certainly talk about it, and you can certainly sell it.

“But if it has a swear on it or whatever, we had to learn from Kim, just put it a little higher and at the back.”

Of note is On the Spot Pop Ups in front of 8310 04 St.

“We don’t censor, but we do curate the kinds of art that’s in,” Roszell explains. “So if you’re painting clothing you’re designing for someone to wear, that’s not really what we’re about — we call that functional art.

“Things like jewelry and crafts, we send those types of artisans to On the Spot,” she says, “because we’re very specific in the types of vendors we have for Art Walk because we want it to be an art festival.”

Also worth sniffing out is SouthBARK on the east side of 106 Avenue on the south side of Whyte.

“We had so much fun there last year we’ve gone back,” she says of the grassy park where an Esso stood long ago. It’s a different sort of fuelling happening there now.

“We have a secondary busking stage and about 60 artists, with a number who requested to be there again.

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“And we certainly left the dog runs open so people can still bring their pups.”

Not a bad time to talk about the music, actually — the main stage over in Dr. Wilbert McIntyre Park featuring acts like Seraphim, Stella Johnson, Ken Stead and many more running the entire time during fest hours.

You can find that schedule at art-walk.ca, as well as the awesome online artist gallery if you’re itching to preview and seek out anything specific, each of the hundreds of icons happily labelled by artist name, medium and where to find them in person on site.

Art Walk
Art Walk is taking place down Whyte Avenue and beyond Friday through Sunday in Old Strathcona. Photo by Greg Southam /Postmedia

“Two-thirds of the event is returning artists,” says Loszell, noting the long-running presence of Art Walk veterans including oil painter Ian Sheldon, watercolour painter Karen Bishop and acrylic artist Allan Milne.

“There are these little communities that are built up, and they look forward to seeing each other, and then they request to be with each other, and so now we’re seeing a little community pop up in SouthBARK, too.”

In case you’re curious or maybe want to join the ranks next year, artists pay $200 per tent spot or $100 for a table spot for the whole weekend, which covers things like vendor licences and amenities (toilets!) artists can access with their pass.

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Like last year, there’s a little stretch of vendors who will appear Sunday only down 104 Street — people who either didn’t feel up to the three days en plein air or perhaps had a smaller collection of work to sell.

“We always want to stress the accessibility part of it all,” says Roszell. “There really are people that are first time in there.

“That’s what this adventure is about, and I’m wanting to keep it that way: it’s all about the artists and coming and seeing the artists and talking to the artists.

“So in a world on fire,” she says, “let’s just have a little moment of pretty.”

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PREVIEW

Whyte Avenue Art Walk

When 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday

Where between 103 to 107 avenues in and around Whyte Avenue

Admission free

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