Down to Earth

By: Jayleen Wilke, Production Coordinator.

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My favourite part of being on the production team (for 3 years now) will always be the random, but vital, tasks that are required for the success of the festival. This year for Emmanuel Osahor’s exhibit, In Search of Eden, we needed to collect hundreds of native plants to Edmonton to create a giant living wall. In order to do so, Emmanuel got into contact with Cherry Dodd, the president of the Edmonton Native Plant Group, to help gather so many plants. I was lucky enough to go along on the field trip to meet her and I was blown away by her knowledge of plants and her overwhelming generosity.

With my limited knowledge of plants, I was able to learn the basics of transplanting from Cherry and can *almost* remember the names of a few native plants to Edmonton. It’s amazing how hardy our native plants are and how beautiful the root systems are too. But plant knowledge was not the only thing I took away from my interactions with Cherry. By inviting us to her house to do the transplanting, I was able to observe her lifestyle, and it was evident how considerate she was towards our planet. Which was incredibly inspiring and heart-warming to see. Consistently offering tea and cookies, she is easily one of the most down to Earth individuals I have ever met. Pun intended.

I am forever grateful for these opportunities I get to experience with The Works. I hope you will check out Emmanuel’s exhibit on Capital Plaza this year and see all the wonderful native plants!

About the author: Jayleen Wilke is a multidisciplinary artist and designer from Edmonton, Alberta. She recently graduated from the Industrial Design program at the University of Alberta. Her work focuses on incorporating locally found materials into designs and artwork to increase attachment to works through the story behind the materials. Combining her love of adventure and new-found love of geology, she hopes to inspire others to love the Earth as she does, through a mixture of art and design. To contact or check out her work, please visit

Works to Work Internship: A Rewarding Experience

By: Iris Baguinon, Marketing and Communications Assistant.

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When I was looking for a field placement for my program at MacEwan University, I came across an ad about the Works to Work Summer Internship. At that time, I had a very little knowledge about The Works, so I did my research about the internship and read some articles about the organization. 

There was something about the mission and vision of The Works that drew me to apply for the marketing and communications assistant position. However, it
took me about two weeks to finally send my application. And why? Because I did not feel equipped enough to be accepted since I have minimal experience with visual arts and design. Fast forward months later, here I am at The Works writing media releases, planning social media posts, flipping through local newspapers, calling media outlets – and having so much fun!

My six weeks working at The Works has been such a rewarding experience. I am learning a lot from my amazing supervisors and most notably, from other interns. Through this excellent program, I have gotten to know all of these inspiring and interesting people. Coming from all different age groups, cultures, beliefs, backgrounds, and walks of life, I get to hear about many
different experiences and life stories. It is an honour to be part of this year’s Works to Work Program. Still, like any other job experience, I hit roadblocks, but the team or I’d rather say my Works family continually reminds me that we are all in this together – Hakuna Matata!

Allow me to invite you to come and visit The Works Festival on the Capital Plaza on the beautiful leg (legislature) grounds. All our staff, interns, and volunteers poured our blood, sweat, and tears to make North America’s largest free outdoor art and design festival happen!

About the author: Iris Baguinon is honoured to be part of the Works to Work Program as the communications assistant. Coming from a theatre background, Iris has been expanding her knowledge of the arts through visual arts and design. Before joining The Works team, she coordinated volunteers and designed marketing and sponsorship materials for other arts organizations in Edmonton including Edmonton Heritage Festival and Ice on Whyte. Born and raised in the Philippines, Iris is a mental health advocate; she promotes self-care in her social media channels. She’s passionate about theatre, the Edmonton local arts scene, photography and making her Instagram feed as aesthetic as possible. Iris is excited to receive her Arts and Cultural Management Diploma from MacEwan University in November this year. Find her on Instagram and Twitter, @irislb_ .



Christine FrostComment
Personal Contact

by: Nicole Companiytsev, Volunteer Administration Coordinator.

When I came in for my first shift at The Works in May, I remember how surreal it felt. I listened to the expectations and the plans – how us interns were joining the rest of the staff to ensure an entire arts festival gets put on. Amidst the excitement and vague panic, I remember thinking that before long I was going to be on the other side of this. We were being thrown into the midst of the action, and in about three months we would be looking back on this experience and reflecting on how far we’d come.

I knew that I would be on the other side of this, looking directly back on this moment of reflection, but that was a very theoretical kind of knowledge. It was very difficult to actually feel it, to believe that the festival would come together. I remember setting up the desks and staring at my inbox, unsure of how I was ever going to get off the ground.

For me, it was the people that really made it feel real. It was seeing the various departments start up and begin the process. It was meeting volunteers who are passionate about working with the festival, speaking with them as they dropped off their applications. It was the numerous people that came up to our table at the Fringe Volunteer Fair and the City Market on 104th, who asked questions and took applications and pins home. It was seeing their emails in our growing inbox. Finally, most recently, it was seeing all of the volunteers who came to our barbecue – a group of dedicated people chatting with the staff and other volunteers, learning about each other and all very excited to be there.

It’s what makes it real to me now, and I look forward to it becoming even more real as we head into festival season.

About the author: Nicole Companiytsev is a writer and director with a passion for other societies – both the real and the fantastical.  She completed her Bachelor of Arts with a double major in philosophy and anthropology in 2016, and is currently studying for her Master of Arts in anthropology at the University of Alberta. She has received a SSHRC-GSM scholarship to fund her research on modern culture and science fiction. She has written and directed three plays: “Two Evenings” with Celsius Youth Theatre (2012), as well as “Dream Spell” (2013) and “Narrator Syndrome” (2014) with Graffiti Mix Arts Collective. She is currently working on a novel that explores the boundary between the human and the alien.

Eden as a Verb: Utopia and Emmanuel Osahor’s In Search of Eden

By: Brittany Gergel, Curatorial Assistant.

An image featured in Emmanuel Osahor's In Search of Eden, originally from the artist's series The Valley

An image featured in Emmanuel Osahor's In Search of Eden, originally from the artist's series The Valley

In the first season of Mad Men, an episode features ad man Don Draper listening to client Rachel Menken as she rhapsodizes on the concept of utopia. “The Greeks had two meanings for it,” Rachel says; “‘eu-topos,’ meaning ‘the good place,’ and ‘u-topos,’ meaning ‘the place that cannot be.’”

Though being discussed in the context of advertising in the 1960’s, the complexity of utopia proves relevant in our continued fixation on the concept. The current development of Downtown Edmonton, for instance, is evidence of how much value is placed on producing ‘the good place’ as an end product. However, our urban spaces are hardly equal-opportunity Edens. In Downtown Edmonton, critical, compassionate address of socioeconomic inequality is frequently cast aside in favour of flashy infrastructure and exclusive programming—twofold moves which, in the name of progress, neglect the vulnerable and cast them away from the city’s core. The latter half of Rachel Menken’s etymology of utopia unfortunately seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy—sealing an ambivalence of good and bad, and possible and impossible, which exposes even more ambivalence and tension in its midst.

Artist Emmanuel Osahor explores these and other utopic ambivalences in the installation In Search of Eden, for The Works Art & Design Festival. Edmonton’s River Valley proves a compelling object of study for this work, as while conventionally utopic and Edenic in its own right, the River Valley also exists as a haven for Edmontonians ousted from urban spaces and experiencing homelessness.

In Search of Eden is a large structure with a scaffolding exterior—imposing, yet not out of place in a Downtown environment. Concealed within the structure is a towering, living wall of River Valley-native plant life. As viewers enter the installation, they view its additional walls, which bear large-scale photographic images of camps and similar signs of human activity in the River Valley. Through this reverent juxtaposition, viewers are forced to consider the River Valley as a space in which Edenic lushness is inseparable from the realities of poverty and homelessness. This tension is already familiar to the Edmontonians who use and consider the River Valley differently, and is further complicated by issues of safety and sustainability. ‘The good place’ and ‘the place that cannot be’ hang in precarious balance.

In this ambivalence, In Search of Eden embodies and asserts the significance of the active search. Though utopia or Eden as an endpoint has proven itself to be not-yet-obtained, the process of striving for different forms of sanctuary in complex spaces like the River Valley continues on. Osahor cites the collective yet differential search for utopia in spaces of hardship as a testament to the persistence of hope. Perhaps the best way to face the ambivalence of utopia is to remain critical, variable and mobile in this hope, constantly searching and striving for something bigger than both good and too good to be true.

Experience Emmanuel Osahor’s In Search of Eden at The Works Art & Design Festival, June 21 - July 3.

About the author:  Brittany Gergel is a student currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in the History of Art, Design and Visual Culture at the University of Alberta. Her accomplishments include publication of art interpretation in the Faculty of Art & Design’s 2018 collaboration project, Anthropocities, and presentation of research-creational work at Mile Zero Dance’s 2018 Eco-Dirt Buffet. She is interested in eros, affinity and accountability as they are navigated through artistic forms.

More to learn

by: Caitlin Davis, Volunteer Administration.

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If there is one thing that I have learned during my time as an artist, it is that there are endless things to learn. You can spend your whole life learning, and still never know everything there is about the growing world of art. Take this year’s interns for example. We come from all backgrounds, all around Canada, and have all lived a different life. Some of us were home-schooled and some of us went to huge schools. Some of us have always known we wanted to be artists, while some had to learn. The majority of us can draw, while some of us attempt to draw. We are poets, painters, sculptors, designers, teachers, anthropologists, majors and minors. But we are all artists in our own way, and we are all here to learn.

Through working long days that will soon be turning into late nights, I’m continuously learning more and more about what being an artist can mean, and just what kind of artist I want to be. The Works Art Internship has been the perfect immersive experience for me to learn from everyone around me, whether they may be other interns, instructors, artists, volunteers, or a tour guide at the Edmonton Waste Management Center. The learning hasn’t stopped since May 4th, and with The Works Festival approaching, it won’t be slowing down anytime soon.

If you get a break, come down to Capital Plaza and see what you can learn. With North America’s largest free art and design festival on the legislature grounds this year, there’s bound to be something that piques your interest. Maybe you’ll even discover that you’re an artist too.

About the author: Caitlin Davis is a first year Design Studies student at MacEwan University from Weyburn, Saskatchewan. She received one of ten entrance scholarships upon being accepted into the program, as well as the Mad Hatter’s Gala Bursary. Currently, Caitlin has a strong interest in print design, including magazines and books, as well as a passion for typography. She has a desire to learn more about the Edmonton Art community and find ways to become deeply involved within it.