arts on the ave

Kaleido Festival is a Future-Glimpsing Crystal Ball


When you are proud of something, you want to show it off. Your new home. Your new baby. Your new outfit. Your community. I think of Kaleido Family Arts Festival as an annual housewarming party for a neighbourhood in continual renewal.

Those of us who live in and around Alberta Avenue can see so much potential all year long, peeking out from every alcove and alleyway. It gathers for coffee at The Carrot. It is jamming in the basements of old fixed-up houses. It paints in garages and performs on the Avenue Theatre stage. It smells delicious as a Portuguese bakery and shines brightly coloured as a Glen Ronald portrait. But this potential remains, mostly, bottled and shelved in small separate spaces. And you often have to search those spaces out.

During Kaleido, combustible potential combines and explodes into, well, a kaleidoscope of beauty. For these three blessed days we all get to see Alberta Ave not as she was, and to be truthful, not even as she is yet, but as she will be. There is a long way to go on our journey of revitalization. The path is fraught with obstacles and discouragements. Events like the Kaleido Family Arts Festival remind us that the destination is worth the trip. We can see with waking eyes what is usually perceived only through eyes of faith.

History now knows this to be an event shared with 40 000 people. A very large housewarming party indeed. So large that guests and events are squeezed in everywhere. And this is what makes Kaleido really unique, even for those who couldn't care less about the miraculous second coming of Alberta Avenue. The entire streetscape becomes a stage, with things to see in every direction. Four blocks of street are closed along 118th Avenue and all down the road you'll find sculptures on lampposts, dancers, flash mobs, music raining down from balconies, roving performers, aerialists hanging–or dancing–from buildings and painters collaborating in the alleys. No space is safe from the transformative power of community art.

Words fall short as Kaleido must be experienced first-hand. You must simply show up and be immersed. I usually spend Friday evening meandering down the middle of the ave, mouth and eyes gaping in proud wonder at what Arts On The Ave, the Kaleido organizers have pulled off.

You'll wonder how this could happen, right here in this little old neighbourhood, smack in the middle of this unassuming northern city. We may not have those fabled 'champions' any longer, but at Kaleido, you'd hardly notice, as the same lampposts bearing sports cutouts of a bygone golden age are covered in yarn or grass or photographs or papìer-màchè.

The Bleeding Heart will be caring for volunteers throughout the weekend, and we couldn't be happier to involved.

Kaleido starts this Friday, September 13 on 118th Ave between 90th and 94th streets. An Arts Gala and Street Party kicks things off at 8 PM, along with an showing of Honey, I Shrunk The Kids! At 10 PM, the Aurora Lantern Parade carries lights the darkened streets with handmade lanterns, winding up back at centre stage for a 10:15 concert by San Fancisco alt-indie-pop band The Do-dos. And that's just Friday night.

Oh, did I mention admission is by donation?

Get all the info you need at

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