This past Sunday evening, Alberta Avenue reopened to impatient cars.
Tires reclaimed pavement from thousands of human feet. Those feet that strolled aimlessly, taking in the breadth of beauty on display during the Kaleido Family Arts Festival. Feet supported by stilts, six feet above the earth. Feet having danced with abandon to an African or Indigenous drum, tassels flying. Feet propelling pedals to power the booming beats of hip hop. Feet of every age and race. 1514 of them walking the floors of Bleeding Heart Art Space.
Those 1514 feet belonged to 757 guests–a new record for us on any weekend and for that matter any single show.
Those numbers are a direct result of the Kaleido Festival crowds, now in the thousands, but the show deserves the traffic. Guests upon guests (236 on our first night alone) remarked at the intricate beauty of Brandon Atkinson's ink and graphite drawings. There were curious questions about Atkinson's Indigenous heritage (Atkinson is Cree and grew up here on Alberta Ave, not far from the gallery.) Inquiries into the stories told. What each animal represents. What is expressed by the figures and forms embedded in each scene? I heard whispered gasps of recognition as viewers uncovered yet another hidden image–another layer of meaning and attention.
Before the weekend's end, a piece had sold, and Brandon Atkinson himself had paid a visit to meet some of his newest fans. It was a great weekend to see the dramatic impact of our new focused track lighting. We used our 16 additional feet of wall space, gained by building a movable wall this summer.
All of this was good, but the guestbook is the best part.
Those who didn't gravitate naturally to the guestbook were 'strongly encouraged' to sign by Josephine or another of our ardent volunteers. I read the entries before I locked up Sunday evening and one word lifted from the pages; 'sacred'. There was a sense in our visitors–unsolicited–that Brandon Atkinson's work incarnates something sacred. Something spiritual. There was a sense of peace in our space all weekend. Quiet and stillness from the noise of a busy festival Saturday. Warmth and comfort from the cold drizzle of Sunday.
This sacred sense rested again in the Sanctuary of St.Faith's during Songs by Sunlight. A good fifty souls settled in the room for an hour of music and it was wonderful. I would say it was even holy. But hey, as one of the musicians I'm biased.
I emerge from this Kaleido weekend grateful.
I give thanks for the hundreds who have made Kaleido Family Arts Festival possible for over a decade. I give thanks for Christy Morin and her team of dreamers and doers. I give thanks for the roster of volunteers who enabled Bleeding Heart to remain open for the entire weekend! I give thanks for TJ who got our lights installed in time for this show and for Daniel who built the wall and for Wenda and Jack who painted everything last week. I give thanks for Mat's last minute sound system help. I give thanks for our donors and thanks for those 757 guests.
Even deeper than those thanks, in the well of my heart, is a different gratitude. Those who entered Bleeding Heart Art Space and St.Faith's this weekend felt touched by something–someOne–Other. This has always been the impossible goal of Bleeding Heart Art Space. Somehow, outside the walls of a church or organized religion, outside of even our own intentions, God reaches towards us all through beauty. We may find, together, moments of love and peace and joy.
This is my sacred small hope. May it be fulfilled again and again.