Sidewalk poetry inspires language and community

Neighbourhoods are dynamic places, brought to life by the people who live there connecting and caring with each other. One great local example is the sidewalk poetry project developed by the Meadows Community League, with the assistance of the Neighbourhood Engagement Fund and City of Edmonton Neighbourhood Resource Coordinator Stacey Leach.

“The Sidewalk Poetry is so much fun to work on and really highlights how a project can bring community together,” says Stacey. “This project saw input from children, youth, adults, seniors and newcomers, and the poems themselves are also very diverse in terms of their content. It’s not often that you see such an immediate impact from your work, but in this case, it’s pretty clear that it’s already leading to a greater sense of community. It’s incredibly rewarding to see.”

The project began in 2015, when the Community League President Kendra Black hired Jannie Edwards to be their Artist-in-Residence. This was the first time a community league pursued a relationship of this sort. Jannie reached out to other local artists and Stacey helped to breath life into the project.

After Jannie and fellow artist Agnieszka Matejko led a series of poetry workshops throughout the community, a jury of 10 members, including City staff, reviewed over 2000 submissions and selected 80 poems to be engraved on public sidewalks. The project solicited poems from community members throughout the neighbourhoods of Larkspur, Silverberry, and Weinlos.

The first two phases were completed during the summers of 2016 and 2017 to much success, as poems were engraved in front of Father Michael Troy School, Velma E. Baker School and in the ravine walk. This spring, the final phase will be installed in front of Silverberry Park, allowing Meadow Community League to complete their walking map to highlight the various poetry pathways. The final unveiling event will be on May 9th from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Organizers (L to R) Catharine Schoenfordfer, Jannie Edwards, Stacey Leach, Kendra Black, Heather Downey, and Agnieszka Matejko gather after the poetry unveiling at Velma E. Baker School.

Organizers (L to R) Catharine Schoenfordfer, Jannie Edwards, Stacey Leach, Kendra Black, Heather Downey, and Agnieszka Matejko gather after the poetry unveiling at Velma E. Baker School.

This project is also affecting people on an individual level, including Manroop, a Grade 9 student who wrote one of the poems chosen. His mother, Davinder Jander, shared about the impact it has had on his confidence:

“We only moved to this neighbourhood last year. When Manroop first started school, he was challenged by his English class. When his poem was chosen, he was so proud! Now he is reading up to four books on a weekend.”

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More than 80 poems will be engraved for the Meadows Community League sidewalk poetry project. The final unveiling event will be held at Silverberry Park on May 9th.

No question words are powerful tools. In Edmonton, the sidewalk poetry project is building community.

For more information visit: http://www.themeadowscommunity.ca/poetry-pathways-project/

 

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