Exhibit shows ups and downs of inner-city life

An art exhibit that highlights the struggles and triumphs of Edmonton's inner city is on display at Enterprise Square as part of The Works Art and Design Festival.

Manisha Krishnan, Edmonton Journal - 03 July 2012

EDMONTON - An art exhibit that highlights the struggles and triumphs of Edmonton's inner city is on display at Enterprise Square as part of The Works Art and Design Festival.

Where We Stand features urban landscapes, screen-printed clothing and a powerful black-and-white portrait series of members of Boyle Street Community Services, a non-profit organization that does outreach work. The project was a collaboration between artist-in-residence Anna Gaby-Trotz and Boyle Street members, many of whom are homeless and have addictions or mental health problems.

Gaby-Trotz started the project about six months ago, after completing a master of fine arts degree from the University of Alberta. The job tied her artistic passions to a desire to build a stronger sense of community in the city, she said.

"Art is called humanities for a reason. It tends to bring people together, it makes people think, question and challenge assumptions."

About 50 artists from Boyle Street contributed to the pieces. Many posed for portraits that correspond with six-word autobiographies.

One of Gaby-Trotz's favourites depicts a mother with two children that reads, "Playful. Active. Princess. Monkey. Been difficult."

Another woman proudly reveals her tattoos of the words "Native Power" next to each of her collar bones.

Most of the photos were shot against a white background.

"I wanted to remove any stigma attached to the subjects about the place that they are, so that they could be anywhere, but they're talking about their lives at Boyle Street."

Leslie Danyluk is an urban landscape photographer who contributed to Where We Stand. Danyluk, 51, was homeless from April to October 2011. He bought his first camera, a $26, one-megapixel, from Winners about a year ago.

"I started taking pictures a year ago, when I was still on the streets. I was documenting my daily route," said Danyluk, who lost his job when he first moved to Edmonton in 2008.

"I've had nothing but positive feedback from all my work," he said.

A wall of both positive and negative messages from Boyle Street members is also part of the exhibit.

"I'm down and out," reads one. "Here is where everybody is. Even my enemies. This place means company."

Where We Stand is on until the end of August.