From a chorus of discussions over this past week culminating to a quiet corner conversation tonight at Martini's, I have come to a semi conclusion: Edmonton has no heart. People leave, come and go, and it's simply expected. Transient city. No heartbreaks. Shallow ties. Unstable roots and unable to grow.
Talking with Shawna Dempsey this past week, a Winnipegger all the way (from Scarborough), I couldn't help but try and compare Edmonton and Winnipeg as similarities accumulated: both midsized prairie towns, murder capitals of Canada rank #1 and #2, blue collar, unwalkable, frigidly cold. Arts wise, there are opportunities in both cities, where with enough gumption, you can live however you like and curate shows about the city you live in in a major public gallery . . . Only Winnipeg is Edmonton with heart. When people leave, it is heart breaking. People leave Edmonton and rarely look back. People leave Winnipeg fondly thinking of the city in their hearts. Maybe not always, but they stay for heart, not money.
The main difference is the mentality of money. There is money here, meaning potential, prosperity, a boom, that will be eventually followed by a bust. People are attracted by wealth, and a few of them stay after it dries up, having invested time and perhaps property. It's a cash grab, like that vacuum on that old game show where bills swirl and the participant tries to grab as many bills as they can, before time is up and they vacate their hollow tube. There are no foundations in place for real development. I am again thinking of arts, such as real art schools, film schools, contemporary galleries, and an audience that thinks this is some place to be, to grow and spread from the ground up.
I used to believe that in order to stay, you had to leave. Often. As the opposite seems ridiculous: that once you leave, you visit. Often. So why stay at all? I have been fighting the urge to leave for years, resisting the collective push to think elsewhere has to be better than here. I still don't think elsewhere is better; it is simply elsewhere.
It is a beautiful summer and the people are always solid, yet, I continue to question why I remain still and what I anticipate to come of this next year.