When I saw Edmonton city councillor Ben Henderson at the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts 10th anniversary party last night, I decided to speak up.

Ben, there's something on my mind!
So I did what you do. Waited for him to finish the conversation he was in, called his name, put out my hand, re-introduced myself (when I was in the news business our paths would cross) and launched into a bit of a soliloquy about the sorry state of bicycle route planning and politics and vision in the city. Henderson is an advocate for cyclists, routinely injects the possibility of European city cycling architecture into the conversation here, and, basically, is refreshingly willing to get written off as a looney, pant-clipped, all-weather cyclist because he wants some of his taxes to support his mode of transportation.

Shelagh at Nina 
For a few minutes, I had the ear of one of the city's most powerful politicians. I don't know what will come of it, but one thing did come of it, and right away: I felt good getting the ear of one of the city's most powerful politicians. It was a municipal-politics-grassroots-democracy kinda moment. And then it was out of that exclusive conversational space and back to the party at Nina.

The Nina Haggerty Centre is a beautiful idea that stands on 118 Ave and 92 St in north Edmonton. And for a decade, it has stood for the proposition that persons with developmental disabilities should face fewer obstacles to their creative expression. And that the arts are a channel to having their voices move away from the margin.

And, so, if you visit the Nina gallery or its workshops, you will see artists over their paintings, ceramics, glasswork, sculpture, drawings, textiles, puppets, screen prints and animation videos . Working on what their voices look like.

And if you start to get to know the people behind the Nina Haggerty Centre, you will meet people who are, on the continuum of noise out there, quiet people, too. They are democratic people who believe that a lost or lessened voice can be found and amplified—if it is adopted.

Theirs is a different kind of political tactic based on a different conception of voice. While I used mine to force my way into Ben Henderson's world and make (good!) arguments about where some of my tax dollars should go, all around me, in display cases and on walls and pedestals, were other voices waiting to be contemplated and listened to and served.

Happy Birthday, Nina.

A colourful conversationalist


Popular posts from this blog


Some Late Thoughts Listening To Wheat Kings

Three Things from Edmonton - Episode 46: minding the gap, talking the talk, reading the room