It’s new and cool and very yellow. It’s CO*LAB, one of two new community-run arts spaces in downtown Edmonton.
The huge garage doors on the building let art show visitors walk in and walk right through from the street to the courtyard at the back.
CO*LAB is the building lit up with 17 vertical light panels.
And it’s the place every year where GLOW: A Walking Lantern Parade happens. The garage doors mean participants can start the parade inside and flow right out into the city. Another kind of cool.
Lantern workshops, festival details and competitions are to be announced soon.
The Quarters Arts Society works out of the space and provides programming, engaging people with inclusive, accessible and citizen-led projects that honour the area’s heritage and respect diversity in the community.
Near CO*LAB is the Ociciwan Contemporary Art Centre, which is Edmonton’s first Indigenous-run centre for contemporary art. The Cree word is pronounced “Oh-tzi-tzee-won,” and means “the current comes from here.”
The two-storey building has a gallery, library, community spaces and offices. It supports the City of Edmonton’s goal of fully engaging its relationship to Indigenous contemporary art and building capacity for exhibitions, dialogue and criticality.
Both CO*LAB and Ociciwan are in The Quarters, just east of Downtown. The area is close to many Edmonton gems, including the River Valley, the new Stanley A. Milner Library, the Royal Alberta Museum and the Edmonton Downtown Farmers Market.
A bit of the back story
The new spaces represent the City’s commitment to the bigger picture and to the communities that call The Quarters home. The area is already home to culturally diverse communities and an active scene.
“We knew the City had these two great buildings downtown and saw an opportunity to build something unique” said Mary Ann Debrinski, Director of Urban Renewal. “We knew right away that we wanted to engage local organizations on the possibilities.”
The City’s goal is to make The Quarters a safe, inclusive and healthy community that’s also a dynamic destination to live, work, learn and play.
Tiffany Shaw-Collinge is an artist and member of the all-women collective that runs Ociciwan Contemporary Art Centre.
“Resources and exhibition opportunities for Indigenous artists, along with employment within the cultural sector, was minimal for many years,” said Shaw-Collinge.
“Many to most Indigneous artists with the means, often moved away from the city for many years in order to pursue opportunities that supported their career.”
The City worked with the Ociciwan Contemporary Art Collective and CO*LAB to understand how the repurposed buildings could meet their needs.
This was CO*LAB before:
This was Ociciwan before:
The old-new buildings set the stage for the official arrival next spring of Kinistinâw Park in the heart of The Quarters. The park features a weaving canopy with a northern Cree/Métis beading pattern by Shaw-Collinge.
“The pattern attempts to amplify the concept of cultural erasure by weaving in and out of The Armature, and also speaks to the resiliency of Indigenous people, regardless of time and place, said Shaw-Collinge.
The additions of CO*LAB, Ociciwan and Kinistinâw Park bring the City of Edmonton’s 20-year vision closer to reality.
One project at a time—The Hat @ Five Corners rental tower, the recently renovated Brighton Block, the Pendennis Building Redevelopment and the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel—the plan is realized.
So far, The Quarters plan has resulted in over $500 million in public and private investment.
Watch for upcoming public projects like the adaptive reuse of the Ironworks Building, remediation and build-out of the Boyle Renaissance Community Garden and enhancements to 97 Street.
“It’s about investing in the right infrastructure for today, and our future city of 2 million people,” said Jason Meliefste, Deputy City Manager, Integrated Infrastructure Services. “We want to be good stewards of what we have today, and be set up for growth in the future — and that means setting up healthy communities that can attract investment and people to the area.
Editor’s note: Follow Ociciwan on Instagram. Follow Quarters Arts on Instagram. Learn more about The Armature.