Lessons Learned in 2015: A Bleeding Heart Year in Review

We’ve covered a lot of ground in our first year in Alberta Avenue home. Opening late November 2014, we set out to create an art space, sacred space and community space in the heart of the revitalization of our neighbourhood. We’ve done that in so many ways this past year, and I’ve learned a lot on the journey.

In a year that included the shutdown of our founding church family and nearly five hundred visitors in one weekend, how could we not learn some lessons?

Here are some highlights from 2015, month by month. Not everything is covered, but like me, you'll find plenty to celebrate on this list. With each month, I’ll share one of many lessons learned, too.

If you want to help us grow in the coming year, now is the perfect time to make a year-end donation to Bleeding Heart Art Space. Giving through our new church family, St.Faith’s Anglican Church, is tax deductible.

Donate Here




Way back in January, that fresh paint smell still hung in the air of our 118th avenue home. Deep Freeze Festival was about to bring thousands to the Ave and we would be ready for them with our first emerging artist show, Marcie Rohr’s INNER CORE. Our first solo show, Marcie Rohr’s abstract paintings popped against our white walls and the winter wonderland outside. New friends were happy to see us alive and kicking on the Ave. We were happy to be the new kids on the block.

I remember gallery hosting that show, watching out the windows as people-powered deep freezers raced. With glorious heat and an unobstructed view, we had the best view on the Ave.

Marcie’s show went off without a hitch. One painting found a buyer. Artist fees were paid. Marcie Rohr has gone on to share her work around the city, becoming one of the artists chosen for #YEGCanvas this winter. More recently, she’s also joined our team as a visual arts volunteer.

View Marcie Rohr’s website here

Learn more about Deep Freeze Festival here

ArtLuck in Our New Home

ArtLuck had developed into a beloved tradition by 2015, but we had yet to try the idea outside of a living room.

Our first effort felt different–less ‘homey’ than an actual home for certain. It had its positives, though. Pristine walls to hang work for a better look. Plenty of room to sit. A neutral space perhaps better suited to welcoming newcomers.

The change in scenery didn’t impede sharing one bit. Among many works, we saw paintings developing from Riley Tenove that would make a big impact on Bleeding Heart months later.

Explore the recap of this ArtLuck, with photos, here

Lesson Learned

Our location is a perfect spot for festival season, right across the street from the grassy space that has become the site for plenty of action. If we served hot chocolate, we could be even more popular next year. Mental note taken.


Ash Wednesday with Urban Bridge Church

Our first Liturgical Experience of the year saw us teamed up with friends and leaders from Urban Bridge Church. Ash Wednesday has long been observed by Christians around the globe heading into Lent, but perhaps not always with giant cardboard models of our city.

With friends old and new, we prayed for our communities by building replicas of them, best we could, using cardboard boxes. This created a sort of labyrinth we could walk through as we prayed at the close of the evening, asking God to bless our neighbourhoods, and to make us a blessing within them during Lent.

One goal of the Bleeding Heart project is the revitalization of faith through creativity. We engaged God not only with our minds and hearts but also with our bodies. We received ashes on our forehead, a sign of mourning, then walked through our little ‘city’–a physical hoping for transformation to come.

Read my 2015 Ash Wednesday reflection here

Walking for the Homeless on the Coldest Night of The Year

Later in February, we put our faith into action and walked through the downtown core as a small group of Bleeding Hearts joined hundreds who were walking to raise money and awareness for the homeless, through Hope Mission and Coldest Night of the Year.

https://vimeo.com/91734271February was a strong reminder that are an art space with a difference, and that difference is a hopeful faith infused with love in action.

Sign up for this year’s Coldest Night Of The Year Walk here

Lesson Learned

Engaging the whole body in spiritual practices brings new life to old faith.


Life2 Holds Second Chances to the Light and the Lens

Our second show of 2015 focussed attention on crime and second chances. Mark Power has curated a large series of portraits, matched with the personal stories of convicts living on parole. Each of seven parolees was paired with a local photographer who got to know their story while they made their images. The result is a powerful exploration of the limits of forgiveness in a society that demands justice and desires mercy.

Discover the Life2 project online here


Lesson Learned

The church year can interface with arts programming in surprising ways. Life2 became the perfect show for Easter, dealing with issues of forgiveness and rebirth through the lenses of prison, parole, and social pariahs.


A Conversation on Second Chances

We filled our space for an intimate conversation with artists and parolees from the Life2 project. Listen First is an ongoing series of events where we gather to hear stories and perspectives from those who aren’t often listened to. This night in early April, those stories belonged to parolees, those who work to help them back into society, and those who have captured their stories in photographs. Set within a neighbourhood living with her own baggage, these stories are healing and hopeful.

A Conversation on the First Metaphor

We joined in with Edmonton Poetry Festival as poet Kelly Shepherd and woodcut artist Alison Kubbos shared their collaborative work, The First Metaphor.

As we tested the capacity limits of our little space, we listened to a weaving of original poems and reflections on how our stories are tied to those of the animal kingdom. We pondered how shifting and shrinking understandings of the natural world are shaping our understandings of ourselves.

Many books and prints were sold, artists were paid and we met many new friends in the #yegarts community. But that’s not the whole story.

We also got very warm in that front room. Our windows were still bare and the spring sunshine was reminding us that summer was going to be very hot indeed if we didn’t intervene. I asked, half joking, for donations to help us cover those windows. I’d been pricing out shades that week. It turns out my joke wasn’t funny. A generous couple donated the entire 500 dollars to cover those windows as we still have their shade and cool today thanks to that gift.

I left that evening taken aback at just how wonderful this Space was turning out to be, and just how generous our community is.

Order your copy of Kelly Shepherd’s new book, Shift, here

Lesson Learned

Don’t be afraid to ask for exactly what you need. People are often waiting for the opportunity give in meaningful, tangible ways.


Deadlines and Pressures and Cancelations

The First Metaphor still running, our minds were freed up to stress over deadlines. The deadline for art submissions for Bridge Songs: PERFICT came and went on May 1. We wondered if we’d have enough art and of course, as always, we did.

Recording deadlines for Bridge Songs kept me very busy. Every week I’d spend my non-working days tracking Bridge Songs recordings with various artists in the EPL Maker Space studios. Then there was the mixing and the tracking at home and the re-tracking and the mixing.

In the midst of all that madness, I’d planned a Website Workshop for a mid-May Wednesday evening. I had hoped for early online registrations that never came and at the last minute, I pulled the plug. Only I forgot to communicate that until after a hopeful few showed up to locked doors at Bleeding Heart that evening.

Discover our online series, Website Wednesdays, here

Lesson Learned

Don’t pull the plug. Whenever you can, show up for those who show up. They matter.


Bridge Songs Was Perfict … Except for One Thing

On June 13 we released and performed our 9th collection of original songs, Bridge Songs PERFICT. As usual, the show was accompanied by poetry and spoken word and featured both old friends and new artists. Some of my favourite Bridge Songs tracks show up on this latest release and working in the EPL Maker Space for free made this recording a particular joy.

Bridge Songs is always busy, and we should have known opening a major installation from Robert Harpin that same day was an unnecessary burden on our team.

Grace and I did our best, hoisting a projector onto an unsteady homemade mount just hours before the show should have begun. As things went south (literally) I watched the plastic projector from below teeter out of our control. In the worst possible way, it smashed to the floor in a slow motion corner impact. Shards of plastic and lens shrapnel scattered and we knew that Battle of Barking Creek would not open this day.

View the BridgeSongs website here (with samples of the music and art)

Listen to Storm The Perfict, the Bridge Songs podcast, here


The Battle of Barking Creek Does Open

A week later the show did go on. A new projector was bought and kinks were mostly ironed out.

Our first commissioned installation was an ambitious piece from Edmonton’s Robert Harpin, featuring video, sound, printed posters and 3 glittering models of Spitfire planes upon our newly constructed plinths.

Harpin’s Battle of Barking Creek brought attention to an obscure friendly fire incident where all-too-perfect Spitfire planes shot at their own with devastating results.

The Battle of Barking Creek was also an official site for The Works Festival. Site 26, to be exact.

We ArtLuck into Summer

One last ArtLuck helped us wave hello to a well-deserved summer break. It was a fitting farewell, with a lot of great work shared. One highlight was the continual development of a ghostlike series of ink-on-glass paintings by Pam Baergen. You can read a full review of the event here.

I’m a firm believer that there are just too many beautiful things happening in our fair city over the summer months. There is no need to add to the glorious chaos. Besides, we need a break and what better time to lie fallow than these rare months with no jacket required?

Read the recap of this ArtLuck here

Lesson Learned

Don’t drop a projector.

More importantly, don’t put yourself in a position where you can drop a projector. Take the time to do things right. More importantly, take the time. Don’t overload and don’t rush. That’s when projectors break.

July & August

Long Hours on Long Days

Having put so much effort into The Battle of Barking Creek, we wanted to give Rob Harpin as wide a viewing as possible. We chose to stay open through much of July. Attendance was very low and I was very stressed at a time when I should have been firing up the BBQ and kicking back. Or at least mowing my lawn and tending my garden.

Not to mention the fact that Urban Bridge Church, our church fmaily, was ending.

A much-needed break came with the Glen Workshop in August in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Five Edmontonians made the trek, and it was great to spend some more focused time with some Bleeding Heart friends. I was doing recon in my mind the entire time, scheming for when and how we can hold a similar event here one soon summer.

Lesson Learned

Don’t stay open during the summer. It’s just not worth it and we all need a break. At least, I do. Lie fallow with purpose.


Riley Tenove's Places Were Not Forgotten during Kaleido

It was our first Kaleido Festival in our new space, smack in the middle of the action. The closed streets certainly didn’t hurt our attendance. We welcomed a record 484 visitors from September 11 to September 13!

It was fantastic to share Riley Tenove’s art with so many fine folks. We met new volunteers, gained many subscribers to our newsletter, From The Heart, and got to show off some of Riley’s work on TV with plenty of festival news coverage.

Kaleido also presented the perfect opportunity to invite the city to our next show, OPEN WALLS. This time, we invited people not only to view but to show.

Lesson Learned

In the past, we’ve volunteered for Kaleido by serving volunteers. It would be nice to do that again in the future if we have the staff and finances, but not at the expense of adding our own space to the fabric of the festival.

The best way we can contribute to a neighbourhood festival is to be the best version of what we are; a sacred/community/art space.


Our OPEN WALLS Get Filled

OPEN WALLS was a gamble that paid off big time. We asked the city to submit their work. You did. Our walls could have been mostly empty for nearly a month. They weren’t. By the end of this evolving exhibition, we received 40 works from 40 Edmonton artists. FORTY!

OPEN WALLS got us a lot of attention, with media coverage and social shares. The show was the first introduction many people had to our space, and it opened us up to an audience that transcended many of our established networks. All good things.

It was fun to hold an ArtLuck right in the middle of all this creativity, too.


Filling The Carrot with Music

If OPEN WALLS wasn’t enough craziness, Bleeding Heart also put together a concert series at The Carrot, featuring seven artists from our Bridge Songs project across five Friday nights.

View The Carrot’s upcoming lineup here

Lesson Learned

People will show you amazing, beautiful things if you pay attention. When you give people a venue, they are incredibly grateful.


Filling the WAITING ROOM

Our most sparse show to date, Alysha Creighton’s WAITING ROOM had many people asking, ‘where’s the art’? Which is kind of the point.

During open hours (Saturdays only for this show) the exhibit is a mostly open space. A small table sits at the far end and within the table a small video plays. A hand is writing a phrase taken from Ecclesiastes. As you approach the table to see this, the sound of rushing water rises around you. The sound slowly fades until you move again.

Not that you’d have noticed all that at the opening.

We had to pull out more chairs for the crowd of 30 plus people who’d come to see what WAITING ROOM was all about. Thanks to our new Hospitality Lead Bridget, we had plenty of food and drinks. Alysha Creighton’s artist talk did not disappoint, but the main event was surely the debut of our window projections. People crowded around from across the street as beauty made the cold darkness bearable. We watched the windows dance with rushing water and felt all the wonder of a Christmas morning.


Lesson Learned

If you are mounting a technical show, expect technical difficulties. Then expect more, and do not expect them to end.


Yule Ave a Blue Christmas as Long as We’re Around

It wasn’t long before people asked me when Blue Christmas was happening. It seems our launch event last year was a hit. People need a reflective, sacred space to mourn loss over the holidays. These bright, noisy days can become a time of suffocating joy for the grieving. Frank Zotter asked me first.

Frank Zotter leads Yule Ave, a neighbourhood Christmas festival that we’ve been part of since the beginning. I told Frank we would do something related to rivers for the big Yule Ave: A Blast! show. Something that tied in with our current show, but not specifically Blue Christmas.

Then other people started asking. People who were missing loved ones. People who needed that Blue Christmas space for themselves.

I spoke with Travis Enright, Rector of St.Faith’s Anglican Church across the street, and we decided to go for it. On December 20th, Aaron and April Au of Avenue Church joined us for a Blue Christmas liturgy.

For the third time that weekend I sang Over the Rhine’s heart-healing Let it Fall. We spoke our sadness. We prayed and collected glass teardrops hand-blown by Keith Walker. We walked across the street to the gallery, hung those tears on the tree, and sat in silence as Alysha Creighton’s waves washed over us.

That’s how we ended 2015. In waiting. Awake to reality yet full of anticipation, seeking a hope full future.

Visit the Yule Ave website here

Lesson Learned

Shared sadness is a powerful bond, and it is far more hopeful than you’d think. We should keep creating these spaces as long as we can.

A Long Beginning

This year taught me a lot about the joys and pains of bringing a space to life. I didn’t mention how some long-term volunteers and team members moved on. I didn’t mention frustrations making the space work for us at various times. I didn’t mention the hard time we had getting our snow shoveled that first winter.

I likely should have gone into detail about the heartbreak of having our church family dissolve around us, essentially removing the strongest leg on which we stood.

But that was back in the summer and here we are. Still here. Still full of potential and hopeful. Now connected to a new church family, St.Faith’s Anglican. Still able to accept your tax-deductible donations to make another year possible.

Thank you for believing in this Space.

I can’t wait to show you what we’re cooking for 2016.

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