How Arts and Culture can revitalize our spirit and our economy.

Businesses across Edmonton are calling for more investments in the creative economy to attract top talent and support our creative ecosystem.

Office of the Mayor Amarjeet Sohi
Published in
4 min readJul 6, 2022

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When I first came to Edmonton, one of the ways I found community and belonging was through joining a theater group. I practiced my speaking skills, made connections in my community, and gained confidence through trying something new. I know how valuable Arts and Culture is for our city, but what has surprised me is how critical it is for our economy.

Over the past few weeks, I have met with folks from the tech and start-up industry, post-secondaries, and so many other entrepreneurs and industry leaders. They expressed to me that to compete globally and scale-up, these companies need to sell Edmonton as the affordable, vibrant place we know and love to attract and retain top talent.

We know that the creative industry makes up $5.6 Billion of Alberta’s GDP, and Edmonton accounts for more than ⅓ of that with our 300+ Arts organizations, hundreds of events, and estimates of 35–50,000 Edmontonians who get all or part of their earnings from creative economy work. It’s important to do what we can to support festivals and the major economic boost they give our city.

This is why, as our four-year budget discussions start in the fall, I will be focused on Arts and Culture as a key area of investment for our city’s economic recovery and its ability to ensure a better quality of life for all Edmontonians.

Dancers at Heritage Festival in 2019

What we are doing to support Arts and Culture:

Supporting Festivals and Programs
Last week, I put forward a motion to provide $500K to support smaller festivals and events, including creating micro-grants and increased support for the WinterCity program. This project will come as an unfunded service package to our 2023–2026 budget discussion.

Boosting our Night Time Economy (if motion passes on Wednesday)
For the past few months, I have worked to explore the creation of a position to support the Edmonton economy after dark and to collaborate with Explore Edmonton to develop a Night Time Economy Strategy. Many folks from the hospitality industry and local businesses have told me about the potential that our night time economy has if we decide to support it.

Many cities are exploring night retail experiences, after-hours transit, and simply having administrative supports available after regular work hours. A vibrant nighttime economy would let Edmontonians and visitors use our public infrastructure more, feel safer, and give a needed boost to our restaurants, bars, venues, retail and so much more.

Celebrating our Talent
Edmonton has been selected to host the next JUNO Awards in March 2023. This weeklong festival was last in our city in 2004 and was hosted by Alanis Morissette. We can expect a $12 million economic boost from the event as well as a chance to let Edmonton shine as a festival city committed to Arts and Music as part of our collective identity.

Supporting our night time economy is also about making sure our City can fully benefit from large events like this one.

Whyte Avenue Art Walk hosts hundreds of painters, sculptors, and printmakers from across the city.

Helping Artists Recover
In April, the Edmonton Arts Council and the City of Edmonton launched the Arts Presentation Fund for COVID Recovery. This was a major campaign promise that I have been advocating for and I’m so happy to see it move forward. These $500-$10,000 grants will help Arts organizations, festivals, restaurants, community leagues, and other venues pay Edmonton artists to perform live as the community recovers from the effects of the pandemic. I am so excited to see all the new performances that will come from this initiative!

The pandemic has been disproportionately difficult for artists, gig workers, and those who depend on public performances and hospitality for their livelihood. This grant program is a first step toward helping creative economy workers and businesses that have been hit the hardest over these past two years.

Committing to a Sustainable Creative Economy
When I ran to be your Mayor, part of my platform included a re-commitment to the Connections and Exchanges initiative. The strategy lays out a 10-year plan to transform Edmonton’s Arts and Heritage ecosystem and is already underway with the support of the City, Edmonton Arts Council, Edmonton Heritage Council, Arts Habitat Edmonton, and members of the community.

I am so proud to see this comprehensive strategy, especially the recognition that Indigenous Edmontonians must have agency in how they celebrate and remember their past, present, and future cultural and artistic practices.

All is Bright Festival cheers as the lights turn on.

When people think of Edmonton, I want the community they imagine to be a place of meaningful and engaging creative expression. I want our city to be known for our world-class art institutions and our incredible professionals and creative community. And I want our city to be regarded as a great place to travel, raise a family, work, and live a vibrant life because of our well-supported and active Arts and Culture sector.

> Explore the grant opportunities provided by Edmonton Arts Council here

> See what’s on around the city at exploreedmonton.com/things-to-do

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Office of the Mayor Amarjeet Sohi

Edmonton is a place where you can build something. Family. Business. Community. My success is an Edmonton story. And if you like that story, keep reading.