Mill Woods Living Heritage Project

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Mill Woods Canada Day Celebrations Photograph: Don Bouzek

Funded by two “Living Local“ grants (2012 & 2013)  from the Edmonton Heritage Council , the Edmonton Arts Council and the Mill Woods Presidents` Council of Community Leagues, this project aims to engage community artists  with  the stories of the people who created the unique Mill Woods community in Edmonton. Edmonton Heritage Council Living Local http://edmontonheritage.ca/grants/living-local/

Historian Catherine C. Cole and videographer Don Bouzek (Ground Zero Productions) collected the oral histories of some of the original planners and settlers of Mill Woods, a planned community created in the early 1970s in response to a housing shortage created by the second phase of the Alberta energy boom. The City and the province secretly acquired nine square miles of land and hired young, idealistic urban planners to plan the community.

Artists connected with Mill Woods (Jannie Edwards, Rod Loyola, Mark Edwards, Ashley Kumar) were brought into the project to use these oral histories to create original art.

In the first stage of the project, I wrote “The Ballad of Mill Woods,“ recounting the early history of the community:  the  story of the Papaschase band who were promised a reserve on the land that is now Mill Woods – a promise that was not delivered; the land bank assembly; the offering of lots for sale below market value,  for which citizens camped out overnight to acquire; the “arrival city“ nature of the community, where affordable housing attracted young families and newcomers to Canada, many of whom were leaving turmoil in their countries of origin. The ballad was incorporated into an six panel display, which was featured widely in the community.

In the project`s second phase, Don Bouzek and Jannie Edwards created a “braided poem“ of phrases culled from the oral histories.  Inspired by artists such as Steve Reich`s “Different Trains,“ we aimed to create a dramatic, polyphonic, communal spoken word interpretation of the lived history of the community in the voices of those who planned the community and who settled here.

Flutist Mark Edwards worked with classical Indian Kathak dancer Ashley Kumar to create an original flute and dance composition inspired by the words of Mrs. Gita Das, a community activist for many years.

These works, along with laptops with selections from the videotaped oral histories and a presentation by historian Catherine C. Cole were presented at a performance at Ashley Kumar`s SAAM Studio on November 30, 2013.

Ground Zero Productions http://www.gzpedmonton.org/

Mill Woods Artists Collective https://mwartistscollective.wordpress.com/

South Asian Arts Movement Society http://www.saamovement.com/

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