alberta avenue

Our New Home on Alberta Avenue!

Starting November 1, The Bleeding Heart Art Space will actually be ... a space.

Until now, we've done well incarnating space wherever and whenever we are able. Living rooms. Wood-lined and incense-infused church sanctuaries. Coffee shops. Art galleries. Community halls. We may still visit such spaces from time to time. But we have a home now.

Our new home is a space shared with Elm Catering, right on 118th Avenue, next door to the only place I know to get some of the best authentic Latin ingredients in town. If you drive by you'll see the Elm building getting a facelift as we speak.

This new home will provide us with permanent gallery space, so watch for a schedule of shows coming up. We hope to have our first show this December

This home will also provide us with a flexible shared creative work space.

We will open that space up to those of you in the neighbourhood who need somewhere to work away from dishes and laundry and kids. We'll be creating the coolest little shared workspace we can dream up, most likely ready for you to rent out at a low rate early 2015. Interested? Fire me an email.

For me, the schedule for the next few months looks like this. Take possession. Move in. Decorate. Make it homey. Invite friends over. Hospitality is central to the Bleeding Heart vision. We're all very excited to share our home with you.

So, when can you visit? 

Thursday, November 13, 2014, we host our first Arts Potluck in the new space. I hope you can make it out, whether you have art to bring or not. I can't wait to give you a tour.

How will we pay for all this? 

I was hoping you'd ask that.

I'm also hoping you are excited as I am about the prospects of a space dedication to art, faith and community in our city. A place where art, faith, hope and love can flourish. A place for questions and conversations. I'm hoping you are excited enough to support this space financially. I am. 

As we are a project of Urban Bridge Church, we are able to issue tax receipts for your giving. We are so grateful to be a small part of a larger family like Urban Bridge, and they have a lot of faith in us. The Urban Bridge community and a few others have already helped us raise enough for our first year in the space. My hope is to spend that year gathering enough monthly supporters to keep us in our new home for the long haul. 

I'm looking for two main groups of monthly donors. 

The Daring Dozen will be 12 organizations, businesses or individuals willing to give $100 a month to support the space. This is our rent money. This keeps our lights on. We have our first 2 already. Just 10 more to go. 

The Hundred Heartbeats will give $20 a month to power our programming. We need 100 of you who are willing to give at this level, so please consider what a project like this is worth to you. I have no doubts there are 100 people in Edmonton who will support a space like this. And because you do, we'll be able to host shows, put on Bridge Songs every year, pay artists appropriate exhibit fees, etc. Th more programming money we raise, the more we can do. 

That's all I can say for now. Except for this – thank you.

I am so blessed to make an announcement like this. So blessed to be on the cusp of dreams realized. So blessed to share this with you. Without you, the Bleeding Heart team and I would be just a handful of lonely, crazy people ranting about our dreams. But we're not. We are a community about to set out a welcome mat in Edmonton's most exciting neighbourhood.

Knock knock.

Of course, you knew this already, because you are on our super-special email list, right? Right?

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You have something to say–why not say it here? Email your blog post idea to and let's chat.

I almost forgot why I love Alberta Avenue. Then I went to this event.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. - Marcel Proust

Last Saturday I discovered a great new neighbourhood. Again.

I took the kids on the six-block-walk to 118th Ave to experience the 'Rising Up’ Pop-Up Market. This annual event is a new initiative from the Alberta Avenue Business Association to drive customers to shop The Ave. 

I’ve spent a lot of time on The Ave, but along only a small section of it – from The Carrot at 94th street and the four blocks orbiting that spot. Oh, and Batista’s Calzones, of course, way down on 84th street. But between 84th and 90th, I haven’t ventured far. But between 84th and 80th was right where the action was on Saturday.

My experience Saturday reminds me what makes Alberta Avenue uniquely beautiful. It’s not the artists–but the intangible quality that draws the artists in. It is down-to-earth humility. It is unassuming authenticity. It is interesting, kaleidoscopic diversity. It is cheap rent.

And so you find mom-and-pop shops that may not be sustainable in other places. Doors to these shops are most often closed, and the timid are unlikely to investigate. The timid like myself. For those of us on the outside of ethnic communities or specialty niches, the front door is a thin barrier reinforced by fear. Assumptions. Perhaps stereotypes. Or the unknown. But on Saturday, those doors were flung open.

Business owners set up tables to hand out business cards, free gifts and food samples. Ethiopian flat bread. Cooked cabbage. Delicious cake. Papusas. Spices. Fried rice. All so good. All so interesting. 

This special day, shops are open for tours. The boxing club is nowhere near as scary–or dingy–as I imagined. I can almost picture myself wandering inside another day to watch two trainees sparring in the practice ring. 

I discover a tailor, and if I need a tailor, why not this local option? I look into the long, crowded corridor of the cobbler, who must have been in this space for decades. I have friendly conversations with the owners of the hip-hop clothing store, where I’m not likely to shop due to personal style choices. 

The kids feel welcome and safe. They have fun. There are balloon animals. My son gets an elaborate alien, propped on his shoulders in a permanent piggyback. There is free face painting. 

Then there is one standout moment.

Ahead of a line up of kids, two men, looking homeless, are getting their faces painted. Most adults would at least wait for the kids to go first, since this tent is clearly for kids. Most face painters would politely tell these men to wait their turn, or that there is no turn for them here. But not on The Ave. On The Ave, these men get their faces painted. Free. Just like everyone else. And they are having fun.

This festival is not flashy. It is not that impressive, except for the roving mariachi band and the young, long-haired busker tap dancing over a looped guitar riff. The kids and I have a great time. Likely the best time of any festival this summer so far. We feel comfortable. We feel home

The Avenue is not tidy. It is not commercialized. It is not big-boxed or hipsterized. It may be all of those things one day. But today, it is a place where a man can still fix shoes for a living. Today, on Alberta Avenue, you can share free pancakes with folks heading to the Hope Mission later on.  And then with a young couple who have just moved into the neighbourhood for the positive vibe.

Alberta Avenue is ragged, diverse and surprising. It is beautiful and inspiring. It is authentic and refreshing. It is aware of it’s brokenness and full of a real, hardy hope for healing. And that, I think, is why Jesus likes it here so much. It is a bit like the Kingdom coming.

Alberta Avenue is a place where, thanks to Saturday’s event, I’ll be doing more business.

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Calling All Poets! Experience Poetry in Community at The Carrot

The Carrot is beginning Poetry Nights this week! If you love to string words together - or hear such a feat done by others - this is an event for you. The Carrot logoHere is the official word from The Carrot's Brendan Van Alstine ...

"Just a quick note to let you know that starting next week on June 26, and continuing on the last Thursday of every month from 7:30-9:00pm we'll be hosting a new monthly poetry night facilitated by Dahlia Ross, a published poet who has been writing for over 25 years. It's a chance for poets and poetry fans of all ages and abilities to participate and share. We will run the night in a similar fashion to our Saturday open mic, so there's no need to sign up ahead of time either.

Please feel free to come down and check it out, and feel free to pass the info on to anyone else who you think might be interested."

Do indeed - perhaps I'll see you there some time soon?

The Carrot Community Arts Coffeehouse is located at 9351 118th Ave. You can find more info at their website,

Blog for Bleeding Heart!

You have something to say–why not say it here? Email your blog post idea to and let's chat.

Friday Finds: I Like to Do Drawings

Two Christmases ago, my wife bought me a wonderful little book. It is page after page of possibility. It is called 642 Things to Draw, and really, its self-explanatory. After two years, I've drawn far too few of these things. I could have finished the book with a simple daily drawing by now. Guilting aside, the book has reminded me that (a) I like drawing and (b) I'm alright at it. My first drawing from the book's prompts, a rolling pin, is here.


It wasn't long after I got that book that I got an iPad mini. And it wasn't long after that I downloaded the app Paper by 53. It's a very simple, incredibly intuitive program for drawing. Not a lot of options, just a few tools that work great and get out of the way.

I began using Paper to illustrate blog posts because it would take me about as long as finding or designing an image would. Here is the first drawing I did with Paper for this blog.

Arty sketch

When it came time to write letters for the Dear Edmonton blog, it just made sense to me to illustrate those letters and bring a little something unique, and something shareable on social media, to each letter. So far, I've done 12 of these drawings. I hope you enjoy the gallery below.

[gallery ids="727,728,729,730,731,732,733,734,735,736,737,738"]

My next project is an ambitious one, inspired by a far more ambitious project, All the Buildings in New York, where an illustrator has set out to draw every single building in New York. It's a fascinating, beautiful obsession.

My project, starting next week, is called Avenue Buildings. I'm drawing the buildings of Alberta Avenue on a tumblr blog. I'm going to start at 97 street and move my way down 118th Avenue towards Rexall Place. Or maybe I'll jump around. I won't draw every day, but I'll try for a couple of times a week. I'll do this until it stops being fun, because this project is all about fun for me.

So, do you do drawings? I'd love to see them. Share a link below.

Blog for Bleeding Heart!

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Yule Ave a Blast!: Join Us on the Ave This Christmas

Working on Alberta Avenue with The Bleeding Heart Art Space I get to meet a lot of great people. I get to meet artists and people in love with their community and people with big dreams. Many of those people are making their dreams a reality. It’s an inspiring neighbourhood. Last year I got to meet Frank Zotter, an actor and Alberta Avenue enthusiast. I was introduced to Frank by Christy Morin, Executive Director of Arts On The Ave. Christy knew about a big, crazy dream Frank had (just one of many) and thought that The Bleeding Heart Art Space might want to get involved. As I listened to Frank’s dream, I knew she was right.

Frank loves Christmas. Frank wants to see the community come together for a Christmas that runs deeper than consumerism. An old fashioned, carolling door-to-door, hot apple-cider kind of Christmas that money cannot buy. Last year, for the first time, Frank pulled together a celebration called Yule Ave. Yule Ave is a little Christmas festival, and it culminates in an evening ‘Revue’ called ‘Yule Ave: A Blast!’.

Yule Ave 2013 Poster - 11x17This event looks at Christmas from all angles, spanning many holiday traditions. The Yule Ave: A Blast! Revue can range from deeply touching to hilariously irreverent. But Frank recognizes the wonder of the Christmas story, and he asked The Bleeding Heart to bring that story to the Revue last year. Through songs and spoken word, we got to shine a light on the Nativity story. It was a magical night.

This year The Bleeding Heart Art Space, and by extension the Urban Bridge Church community, has the opportunity to bring art, faith, hope and love to Yule Ave once again. We will fill fifteen minutes of the Yule Ave: A Blast! Revue with spoken word, an original song and a classic carol, all focussed on seeking out the Christmas star. My hope is that the Life Light will shine a little through our art. Myself, Andy Mulcair, Brook Biggin, Kristin Kajorinne, Eli Ritz and Jennifer Wilde will provide the music. We hope you will join us that evening.

The Yule Ave: A Blast! Revue begins Friday night, December 13 at 8:15 PM at The Alberta Avenue Community League (9210 118th Ave), and will be jam packed with music, theatre, poetry, laughs and warmth. There’s even free chili.

It might just be the most special evening you have this Christmas.

Blog for Bleeding Heart!

You have something to say–why not say it here? Email your blog post idea to and let's chat.