Pandemic Sketching Journal – Distance


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As with many aspects of life and concepts that have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the definition of “distance” has taken on a new meaning. What first leaps to mind are the 2metres of physical distancing, distance education, and working distantly. The pandemic has also meant that families and friends who are distant cannot travel to see each other. However, there are still possibilities to span the distance. We are fortunate in that we have so many options for communicating through modern technology.

Sadly, distance has also come into play by those who are making the pandemic into a political issue or through hostile personal attacks that divide us rather than help bring us together to fight the common enemy of the coronavirus. Disinformation and conspiracy theories abound, distancing us from each other and from our humanity. I wonder how each of us would now define what it means to be a good citizen. Has that definition eroded for some to rights and privileges only? Duties and responsibilities of citizenship are the other side of the coin. Civilized society can’t exist without it. I grew up on a farm, and it went without saying that the community pitched in to help and care for whoever needed it. My hope is that the spirit of goodwill and cooperation is not a thing of the past. We need it now more than ever.

Sketch by Marlena Wyman

Height: overlooking the river valley

My Urban Sketchers Edmonton group have been able to start sketching together again on the first Saturday of each month – although only outdoors and physically distanced.

As for a form of distance in my life, in August I would have been artist-in-residence at Porphyry Island Lighthouse on Lake Superior. Not a hugely distant destination, but the necessities of dealing with the pandemic required them to postpone the program until next summer. Hopefully I will be able do my residency then, dependent on a couple of contingencies: whether the pandemic is over by then, and whether their volunteer organization that depends on grants and tourism will be able to survive. I measure the distance of the residency not only in cross-country kilometres, but also in height, as I would have had a lighthouse as a sketching perch. In honour of that, I have dedicated my August sketching to high places.

Sketch by Marlena Wyman

Height: the garage rooftop

Theme challenge – Weather: as in “How’s the weather up there?

In addition, my sketch group Urban Sketchers Edmonton, has been posting prompts and challenges each week for the sketches that we have been doing on our own. We have found this to be a fun way to expand our sketching practice and to feel more connection with each other (and less distance) during this difficult time of the pandemic. So I have taken up the challenge of combining these weekly themes with my August theme of vertical distance (I had to stretch the interpretation a bit with some!)

Sketch by Marlena Wyman

Height: grain elevators are the lighthouses of the prairies

Theme challenge – Urban transit: elevators were the hub of wagon, truck and rail transportation

Sketch by Marlena Wyman

Height: Mount Pleasant Cemetery is one of the highest points of land in Edmonton (and I assume that at least a few of its denizens have ascended to heaven)

Theme challenge – Gates/fences/doorways: a headstone depicting the Gates of Heaven

Sketch by Marlena Wyman

Height: Keillor Point lookout/The End of the World

Theme challenge – Change your usual sketching tools: I used a delphinium stem and leaf

My final sketch of August is of a lookout in Edmonton dubbed by locals as “The End of the World”. Hopefully we can all make it safely to the other side of this pandemic, and the only end of the world will be this beautiful view. Peace everyone.

Posted by Marlena Wyman


Pandemic Sketching Journal – Adapting


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Looking back on my sketches and journaling comments through July, they seem slightly…less anxious. A bit odd because the number of Covid19 cases in Alberta is on the rise, and that is very concerning, but we now also have some tools to help mitigate that. Don’t get me wrong, people are still my greatest source of anxiety – especially through a weird combination of carelessness paired with scornful, adversarial denial and mean-spirited mindsets out there – yikes! For sure it is hard for all of us to wrap our heads around everything that is happening, especially with the speed at which it is happening, but this is one of the most important tests of our human spirit and our humanity. There is cause for hope if we can come together (with our hearts and minds that is – keep your 2m distance please!)

Since experts have been feverishly (no pun intended) figuring out this virus, we are now better armed with more solid facts and evidence-based information from which we are able to adapt to living and functioning within the pandemic landscape. If we can adopt a couple of simple tools, those mainly being masks and distancing, then we have a better chance at staying healthy and so can the economy. This is true not only for today’s pandemic but also for the inevitable future ones, since we will be able to apply to those at least parts of what we are learning now.

Sketch by Marlena Wyman

With my first sketch of July, one of the adaptations that took place for me was my Urban Sketchers Edmonton’s first pandemic-modified sketch-out. Our group usually gets together on the first Saturday of every month to sketch on location and then have lunch together. Our last one was March 7th, just before everything shut down. Since then we have been staying in touch and bolstering each other’s spirits with weekly sketch-ins: sketching on our own and posting the sketches online. For our July sketch-out, we met at the beautiful Alberta Legislature building and grounds to sketch. Then we viewed each other’s sketches that we laid out and took turns looking at them while keeping distance from each other. We did not get together for lunch of course, but it was great to see each other in person and share that feeling of community.

Sketch by Marlena Wyman

Another adaptation was ordering and picking up a delicious take-home meal from a local church, instead of attending one of their community dinners in person.  Our favourite is their amazing Ukrainian perogy church dinners that dozens of people usually attend! One day…

Sketch by Marlena Wyman

Since having guests over for indoor meals is not advised, and since we have not formed a bubble with anyone (Who to include? Who to exclude? Good grief – it’s a decision fraught with more challenges than a guest list for a wedding) we have instead had friends and family over for outdoor distancing get-togethers on our deck and in our yard. But since the weather tended more toward rain than sun, if it rained, we simply moved the car out of the carport and moved the visit under its cover. Instant pavilion!

Sketch by Marlena Wyman

There are other examples of more subtle adaptation: for several years now, one of our neighbours has posted a different poem in their yard every week. However, lately I have noticed a shift toward poems that speak more specifically to our present time and circumstances with kind and encouraging messages to help us through all the uncertainty. Art has contributed greatly through the pandemic’s times of isolation and anxiety to keep us occupied and entertained away from the woes of the world as well as providing us with a way to express our feelings.

Sketch by Marlena Wyman

We were planning trips to both BC and Newfoundland this year, but since those were not possible due to the pandemic, we have been taking day-trip stay-cations closer to home in Alberta, and there is no lack of beautiful places to visit around here. We miss family and friends terribly who live farther away, and we have been keeping in contact through video calls and emails. If we can all work together to fight Covid19, next year can be one of true togetherness and freedom. Keep a good thought and a mask handy!

Posted by Marlena Wyman




Pandemic Sketching Journal – The Reopening


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Alberta began Stage 1 of reopening on May 14; Stage 2 on June 12; and Stage 3 TBA. It is important to allow people to go back to work to earn a living and to restore the economy, but how can we do that safely without people thinking that things are “back to normal”?

There have been some advances in the battle against the coronavirus, but a second wave is predicted if we become too cavalier. Covid19 case numbers have already increased in Edmonton, and part of the present resurgence is because people are weary of restrictions and have become complacent, compounded by misinformation and conspiracy theories.

Wearing masks and distancing can be compared to the indoor smoking ban that began as a voluntary measure but had to be made law. It is about kindness and consideration for others as well as protecting ourselves. Pandemic mitigation measures are being asked of us on a voluntary basis right now, but in this context, “voluntary” doesn’t mean when we feel like it. It means unlegislated – for now.

I created the artwork below, not to minimize the impact of the suffering caused by the present pandemic, but as a way of showing that we are not alone. Our ancestors suffered longer periods of isolation and hardship through pandemics, economic depressions, wars and other suffering caused by humans and by nature. The isolation and loneliness that was endured by early prairie women reminds us that we are not alone in our present feelings of isolation and adversity. Many have come before us; their strength and perseverance is with us.

Fortitude and Forebear-ance by Marlena Wyman                                                    11” X 14”, image transfer, ink and graphite on Mylar, 2020                                (photo image credit: Miss MacKay & friend, Ottawa 1885. MIKAN 3448478 Library & Archives Canada)                                                                                              Click here on Description for the quotes in the artwork

In particular, it is difficult not being able to be physically close to our loved ones who don’t live with us. And although it goes against our nature as humans, wearing masks and keeping distance is actually how we can now show our love for them. The virus doesn’t care that we want to be social. Small “bubble” situations can work and keep risk low but only if the small bubble of people agree to just be with each other, and as long as they can trust each other to stay distanced from everyone else. To put it indelicately, not sticking to your bubble is like having a non-peeing end of the swimming pool, but beyond the ick factor of the swimming pool analogy, it is dangerous to those in your bubble.

As restrictions were relaxed, I listened to Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw in each of her calm and reasoned updates. I figured that there would be those who would just hear the words “reopening” and would not hear her repeated and emphasized cautions about how to reopen safely. In this post I will be interspersing my sketches with her sage words.

Sketch by Marlena Wyman

It is important for all of us to remember that this virus is not gone. COVID-19 is still circulating in our communities, and will do so for many months to come.

Ensure that distancing and masking when needed are firmly embedded in their return-to-the-workplace strategies.

Wash or sanitize your hands after touching common touch surfaces. If you get sick, stay home and arrange for testing.

Sketch by Marlena Wyman

This is a marathon, and we are not yet near the end, so let’s pace ourselves, encourage each other, and cheer each other on with face masks in place.

Our knowledge of COVID continues to evolve, as does our approach to prevention as we seek to balance all the needs we have, for human connection, meaningful employment, and protection from infectious disease.

Following public health guidelines can help increase a feeling of being in control, and can make a real difference.

Sketch by Marlena Wyman

We must all be vigilant in following the public health measures, particularly when indoors or attending any group event.

Even if we are feeling healthy and symptom free, we all need to continue operating as though we could spread the virus to others, and could catch it from those around us.

We are all protecting each other. Diligently following the public health measures in place means that you are being considerate and caring, not over-cautious or afraid.

Sketch by Marlena Wyman

This is not the time for complacency. We are not out of the woods yet, and will not be for quite some time.

By now, I believe most Albertans could recite my health advice in their sleep: Stay two metres apart. Wear masks. Get tested. And stay home if you’re feeling ill.

Being thoughtful, kind and considerate to each other not only makes for a better world at any time, but in particular right now it is the way forward to weaken the hold of the virus until our hard-working scientists can find a vaccine or cure.

Posted by Marlena Wyman

Pandemic Sketching Journal – Gratitude for Food


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I am grateful that I am in a fortunate position during this pandemic. Not everyone is. I am retired with an income from a modest pension. I live with someone who shares my concern about the pandemic. I don’t have small children to cope with schooling at home while working from home. I have a house and yard for outdoor space and that yard is helping me to produce food.

Food has taken on a new and enhanced meaning during this strange time. Beyond sustenance, it also symbolises comfort and security. Home cooking, baking and gardening have increased, partly out of necessity, but partly as a way to cope, mentally and emotionally. They are peaceful, meaningful activities.

For some of us, grocery shopping is one of the few times that we venture out into the world, armed with face masks and hand sanitizer. It is not an enjoyable experience; no leisurely wandering up and down aisles for meal inspiration or bargains. Instead we shop and get out as quickly as possible, trying to touch as little as possible.

Now that I have a routine for grocery shopping, I am starting to feel slightly less anxious when I go, but my anxiety shoots up again by people who do not wear masks and do not physical distance. These steps are low-tech, free, simple, and an act of caring and kindness toward others. Isolation has proven to work best to combat the virus, but that is not practical over the long haul and we don’t want to have to go back to that.

I think that the acts of wearing a mask and physical distancing can cross the divide that seems to be happening. It can bring us together because it works for those who have opinions on either side of that divide. Those who feel that we are reopening too soon can feel safer if everyone is wearing masks and keeping distance. Those who think that we need to open up more can advance that by wearing masks and keeping distance. We can all come together in the common cause of helping people return to work safely, being able to move around in public safely, and progress toward economic recovery more quickly. Don’t allow anyone to pit us against each other. No one wants a do-over where we are back to months of isolation to again try and take out a virus that affects every human on the planet.

Although there have been some empty shelves in grocery stores, the hoarding of food has not been as extreme as the selfish and predatory hoarding and price-gouging that happened with face masks and other personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer, and most oddly, toilet paper. But precarious working conditions are affecting food security, food worker safety, and the livelihoods of farmers and producers who we depend on for our food and therefore our survival.

Although many are hoping for the return to “normal”, that is probably not going to happen. We may be able to return to a comparatively freer, safer time, but things will likely never be the same again, nor in many cases should they be. The “normal” of the past was not healthy, fair or sustainable. We need to prepare for another pandemic, natural disaster or whatever else will be coming our way so that our health, safety, livelihoods and economy are not thrown into turmoil.

Hopefully the post-pandemic world will be a kinder, more generous place but the daily news keeps convincing me otherwise. However, there has already been much kindness and generosity to help balance that darkness that humans are sadly capable of. People have been sewing face masks at home, distilleries have been making hand sanitizer to fill the gap, artists have been providing online entertainment, restaurants have been providing food for those in need, and much of this has been provided for free or at cost. Unfortunately, many of these acts of generosity are coming from people and businesses whose financial security and profit margin were already minimal pre-pandemic. Many of these good independent businesses may not survive. It would be a bleak world without the engaging and varied life that they provide; a reduced life of limited choice and dull uniformity. There would be a loss of vibrancy and human scale without the variety of food and experience that the arts and other creative enterprises provide to feed our bodies and our souls.

On a personal note, I am grateful for the kindness that I have experienced. Our neighbours and community league volunteers have offered to do grocery shopping for us. Neighbours and friends have been dropping off gifts of baked goods with cheering handwritten notes (and we have been reciprocating). Family and friends have mailed me seeds and dropped off bedding plants that they grew from seed. My city, Edmonton, started a program of pop-up community gardens. I appreciate grocery stores and other businesses that have curbside pickup, delivery, and seniors’ hours (another benefit of my newly minted senior status).

This pandemic provides us with a window into our future. Do we just survive or do we thrive? Eat, sleep, work, consume, reproduce, die – that is not all there is to being human. We need beauty, nature, meaning, and humanity in our lives. We need to encourage creativity and innovation to help make the world a safer, better and more fulfilling place to live.

As the song Bread and Roses says:

Our lives shall not be sweated
From birth until life closes
Hearts starve as well as bodies
Give us bread, but give us roses.

(Lyrics: James Oppenheim   Music: Martha Coleman, 1911)

There are still reasons to be hopeful and Reasons to be Cheerful.

Food for thought.

All sketches by Marlena Wyman

Posted by Marlena Wyman

Pandemic Sketching Journal – Homesick at Home


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Lately I have had a vague feeling akin to homesickness and the longing that accompanies it. Not for home since that is solidly where I am. The feeling is definitely associated with homesickness though, and takes me back to when I first left home to go to university. The homesickness that I am feeling now is the longing for the comfort and the familiarity of my old life, rather than for home, and the feeling of homesickness hits me in waves.

Part of it is the strain and unease of trying to adapt to an uncertain new way of being. It takes time for us to adjust, especially when the disturbance is so significant and much of it changes daily. We are adaptable creatures and some of my new routine is starting to feel more habitual, but my mind and body still inhabit my pattern of old ways, and I am fatigued from the constant vigilance of it. (As I say these things, in no way am I objecting to these very necessary measures. What causes me the most anxiety are people who are being cavalier about the pandemic.)

Part of homesickness when we first leave home is a feeling of loss of community and belonging, and the loss of security and protection.  Although we are lucky that we can keep in touch through modern technology, it does not replace the loss of contact with our loved ones that we still feel. There is nothing predictable or stable, and we long for that.

The feeling of longing brings to mind a dominant theme in my research of early prairie women’s diaries and letters for my paintings. Their experiences of isolation and homesickness resonate in some ways with our experiences of isolation today.

A Little Band of Lonesome Women by Marlena Wyman, 2014

Although I painted this in 2014, it feels appropriate to today’s experience of social distancing. I wanted to represent the experience of isolation that was one of the overwhelming factors in early prairie women’s lives. As a rule, men were much more mobile. If anyone left the farmstead on business, the men were usually the ones to go. If anyone took a seasonal job away from home, it was generally the men; the women were left on the farm to manage alone.

Civilization is gone and only the little band of lonesome women here remember it…I have no woman to talk to so I will write [letters] to ease my brain.                      Quote from Hilda Rose’s published memoir: The Stump Farm: A Chronicle of Pioneering, 1928. Hilda came from Boston, Massachusetts to Montana, and then to Fort Vermillion, Alberta. Her book is based on a series of her letters written to friends between 1919 and 1927, which were published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1928, the money from which allowed her and her husband to survive in one particularly difficult year.

…if we just had some neighbors, but we are three miles from the nearest. I have seen no women since fall.                                                                                        Quote from Gertrude Chase’s letter of February 11, 1922 to her mother. Gertrude came to the Wapiti River area, Alberta from Tonasket, Washington State in [1918]. Letters: Provincial Archives of Alberta PR1973.0569.

Once I visited another of the early settlers. She was a young woman with a baby and she was lonely too…When we met, we ran to each other; we each had to speak to a woman, and put our arms around each other’s neck and just had a good cry. All the hunger and longing which we had stifled for so long, came to the surface.            Quote from Catherine Neil’s memoir. Catherine came to the Grassy Lake area of Alberta from Scotland in 1905. Memoir: Glenbow Alberta Archives M888, M4116.

Sketch by Marlena Wyman, April 4, 2020

Beginning April 4th, Urban Sketchers Edmonton has been doing weekly Sketch-Ins instead of our monthly Sketch-Outs. Since for now we can’t meet as a group to sketch at a location, we are sketching our experiences of the pandemic individually. For our first month of Sketch-Ins, I have focused on my home since that is my most convenient subject.  Home has taken on a new significance in the pandemic.

Sketch by Marlena Wyman, April 11, 2020

Staying at home is an important tool for fighting the coronavirus. Home cooked meals and obtaining food have become a focus. Our access to entertainment and to the arts is from home. Working from home has become a new way of being for many as has schooling from home, and for many families, the adjustment of 24/7 living.

Sketch by Marlena Wyman, April 18, 2020

I am lucky in many ways. I have the security of my home, a partner who shares my safety concerns about the pandemic, and at this point at least, a modest income from pensions. There are many people in much more challenging situations.

Sketch by Marlena Wyman, April 25, 2020

Stay home, wash your hands, disinfect surfaces, cough and sneeze into your elbow, and keep 2m apart when you have to go out. I wish everyone good health and hope.

Posted by Marlena Wyman

Stay home and draw YEG: Week 2


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This is the second week that I have joined Edmonton artist/illustrator Emily Chu in her daily online sketch club: #stayhomeanddrawYEG. Emily started this to help local artists connect, stay positive, and support one another during this time of isolation. She posts daily prompts for sketching, and anyone who wants to can post their interpretations of the prompts on the group’s Facebook page or Instagram.

I am going to take a bit of a break from Emily’s great online sketch club. I have been inspired and am going to be working on some paintings. We’ll see what that brings but for now here are my Week 2 drawings.

The prompt for March 23rd was “nearby nature”. I used a piece of nature – a twig dipped in ink – to sketch some nature. I’m pretty sure that the huge majestic fir tree in our backyard was a school tree planted in 1950 when our house was built. The Edmonton Arbor Day tradition began in the early 1950’s. The City distributed evergreen seedlings to all grade 1 students in Edmonton and that tradition continues to the present day.

The prompt for March 24th was “childhood nostalgia”. I keep this teddy bear on a shelf with some other childhood pals.

The prompt for March 25th was “look down”. I was in my studio so I looked down at the pattern in a hooked rug that I bought at a thrift store a few years back. It brightens my studio floor (and it’s not in a part of the studio where I paint so it is doing fine.)

The prompt for March 26th was “screen time addiction”. The BBC series “Wartime Farm” on YouTube is well worth viewing. It is entertaining, informative and beautifully filmed and it provides us with some lessons to be learned for today’s global crisis. Different in that WWII required people to come together physically to help, and now we need to stay apart physically to help, but amazing to see how adaptable and resilient people were. For six years!!!

The prompt for March 27th was: Skype portrait – call up a friend”. So I Skyped my friend Mike and did some continuous line blind contour portraits while we chatted. These are always a quick and fun type of sketch.

The prompt for March 28th was “isolation fashion.” I am very into cozy, comforting and comfortable clothes, and even more-so now. Loose, elastic waist pants, long sleeve T-shirts, slippers and especially my sock-monkey sweater. I am not a clothes-horse. More of a clothes-sloth and I’m not apologising.

The prompt for March 29th was “your favourite Tom” of which my favourite was our neighbour’s cat. He was definitely the neighbourhood guy. He visited everyone on the street and never begged for food – just wanted to hang out and make sure everything was fine in the hood.

I wish everyone good health and happy inspiration while you stay at home!

Posted by Marlena Wyman



Stay home and draw YEG: Week 1


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Although artists tend to be introverts, we also like to be social and get together from time to time. Unfortunately, the new reality of the Covid19 pandemic means that one of the best ways to fight it is to avoid getting together. So I have been making some self-isolation art.

I sketch with my Urban Sketchers Edmonton group on the first Saturday of every month and we have lunch and socialise afterward. We will not be sketching together for a while, so we are going to sketch from home and continue to share and socialise through social media. Nice that it has the word social in its name – now is the time to really adopt that part of it.

I have also decided to join Edmonton artist/illustrator Emily Chu in her daily online sketch club: #stayhomeanddrawYEG. Emily started this to help local artists connect, stay positive, and support one another during this time of isolation. She posts daily prompts for sketching, and anyone who wants to can post their interpretations of the prompts on the group’s Facebook or Instagram pages.

The prompt for March 16th was a “mirror/blind contour self-portrait”. I added another layer to that by also making it a continuous line drawing. For those of you who aren’t familiar, blind contour is drawing by looking at the subject that you are drawing without ever looking at the paper. Continuous line means that you can’t lift your pen from the paper. Try it – it’s fun!

The prompt for March 17th was “your isolation grocery cart or fridge” so I sketched some fruit that I had picked up from the farmer’s market (except the orange – it was already in the fridge). In contrast to the craziness at big box store supermarkets, the Edmonton downtown farmer’s market was nice and quiet – lots of room for social distancing and lots if beautiful fresh produce and other food.

The prompt for March 18th was “window views”, so I had some fun sketching with my set of brush pens, looking out to a view in the backyard. It is slowly warming up here but still lots of snow.

The prompt for March 19th was “Staycation Meals” so I sketched my lunch. A homemade tomato basil quinoa soup made from some of my farmer’s market purchases, and a grilled cheese sandwich with bread from my local bakery and Gouda cheese from the farmer’s market. It’s one of my favourite childhood lunches (just fancied up a bit).

The prompt for March 20th was “non-essential essentials”. When I first realised I was going to be staying at home for the foreseeable future, after I got groceries I went to the Paint Spot to fill in some gaps in my art supplies. Creative activities help to occupy the mind, calm the heart, and add balance to what has been overwhelming news. You can see from any social media platform that art in all its forms is helping people to get through this crisis and the isolation issues that it requires. Art is often considered “non-essential” but it is actually essential in so many ways. As the great protest song “Bread and Roses” says “Hearts starve as well as bodies; Give us bread, but give us roses”.

The prompt for March 21st was “local hero/weirdo”. I considered sketching our back yard weirdo squirrel who acts like it is crisis mode pretty much constantly, but who also offers great window “TV”. However, I opted for heroes (of which there are many right now, and in particular our health care workers. Thank you for your amazing work.) The heroes I chose to represent are my more local heroes: the volunteers from Parkallen Community League who are helping people such as seniors in my neighbourhood with grocery-runs, errands, etc. A gesture of kindness that is so needed right now. Thanks to a great community league and great neighbours!

The prompt for March 22nd was “under the High Level Bridge” which I interpreted as the High Level Bridge under construction. The High Level Bridge is Edmonton’s most iconic bridge – a magnificent and historic structure. I used an archival photo (#A15027) from the collection of the Provincial Archives of Alberta as my subject. “Charlie Leake and friend on High Level Bridge Edmonton during construction”. 1913

I am adding a wee bonus drawing that was in answer to a challenge by the Alberta Aviation Museum. Like many museums and other cultural institutions, it is closed due to the pandemic.  They sent out a challenge to draw an airplane with your eyes closed. In keeping with a historical perspective, I attempted a biplane.

Wash your hands, stay home, and keep your spirits up everyone. Try doing some drawing – there are lots of free online tutorials right now, and for most of us there is lots of free time!

See you next week.

Posted by Marlena Wyman


Sketching History: The Artists Part IV


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This is the final of four posts where I am featuring three more of the artists and a selection of their sketches from the exhibit Sketching History: Rediscovering Edmonton’s Architectural Heritage through Urban Sketching. The twelve artists whose work is in this exhibit are members of Urban Sketchers Edmonton, and over 100 sketches of  Edmonton’s built and natural heritage are featured in the exhibit.

Due to the pandemic, Edmonton is taking the same precautions as many other cities and countries around the world. The Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre and Edmonton City Archives are closed, where the physical exhibit is installed. The Edmonton Public Branch Libraries where the smaller exhibit has been travelling are also closed but fortunately there is an online exhibit to enjoy.

Now back to the artists:

Jimmy Golden is a born and raised Edmontonian, and has been a working artist for over four decades. His art education began at the Edmonton Art Gallery Saturday program when he was seven, and has continued through formal studies in Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto and Siena, Italy. He studied under master art calligrapher Chin Shek Lam, learning the fundamentals of traditional Chinese calligraphy which has influenced much of his art practice.

Jimmy has taught children’s art classes at the Works Festival and the Ortona Gallery. He has just begun to sketch with Urban Sketchers Edmonton, and has discovered new joy in returning to sketching after having painted in a non-representational style for many years.

Ortona Armoury Arts Building, 9722 – 102 Street, Rossdale neighbourhood. Sketches by Jimmy Golden

The Ortona Armoury is historically significant for two major layers of history: the Hudson’s Bay Company exterior and the Navy interior. It was built in 1914 by architect C.R. Sutherland for the HBC as a warehouse and stables. It also served other uses, including the Edmonton Pure Butter Company.

It was the headquarters of the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserves, one of the most active naval training facilities in Canada during WWII. In 1941, the building was commissioned the HMCS Nonsuch, and the Navy era floorplan and details have remained intact in the interior for 80 years.

By 1965, it became home to the Loyal Edmonton Regiment and was renamed the Ortona Armoury in honour of the regiment’s WWII battle.

The City of Edmonton took over ownership in 1977, and it has become an arts building for the last three decades. Arts group tenants included the National Film Board, Edmonton Folk Fest, the Film and Video Arts Society, and Trincan Steel Orchestra. It also housed private studio space, the Ortona Gallery, and public arts space.

The Ortona was designated a Municipal Historic Resource in 2004. It is now closed for code upgrade work.

Brenda Raynard is a professional artist working in painting, drawing and textiles. She’s had an active and varied studio practice since taking her BFA with Honours from the University of Alberta in 2000.

Born and raised in Stettler, Alberta, Brenda has lived in Edmonton for 30 years. Her upbringing in a small town on the Western Canadian prairie deeply informs her artistic sensibility.  Brenda has exhibited nationally and internationally.  Her art is held in numerous private and corporate collections.

Brenda’s been part of the Urban Sketcher’s Edmonton group since 2018 and enjoys sketching on site with other like minded artists.

(You can find more of Brenda’s artworks on Facebook and Instagram under Brenda Raynard or 21Konstruktions.)

Mactaggart Sanctuary, Whitemud Creek Ravine. Sketch by Brenda Raynard

The land for Mactaggart Sanctuary was donated by Sandy A. Mactaggart, through the cooperation of the Province of Alberta, the University of Alberta and the City of Edmonton. In a conversation with the original owner [William Strait], Mactaggart discovered that [Strait], who was elderly at the time, wanted the land to remain untouched for the benefit and enjoyment of the citizens of Edmonton. Mactaggart purchased the land, allowing Strait to live there until his death, and arranged for the donation of the land with a matching grant from the Province through the University of Alberta. The land remains as a sanctuary and wildlife corridor, not to be developed as a park, with rough trails for hiking.

Molstad House, 9633 95 Avenue, Bonnie Doon neighbourhood. Sketch by Brenda Raynard

Edmonton realtor Edward H. Molstad and his wife Addie built their home in 1912. It is a stately two-story brick and wood Four Square house originally built on 5 acres of land, surrounded by a circular driveway, fountains and trees, and included a carriage house and servants’ quarters. In 1931, part of the house was converted into apartments, but the Molstad family continued to live there until 1982.

When Walter and Jean Kipp purchased the house in 1988, they worked to restore it to its previous glory as a single family home. Present owners Scott and Erica Richards continue the care for the preservation of this elegant home.

The interior retains the original hardwood floors, oak panelling, sculptured ceilings, brass chandeliers, and fireplaces. In 1994, Molstad House became Edmonton’s first historically designated residential building, and was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1996.

Al Rashid Mosque, Fort Edmonton Park. Sketch by Brenda Raynard

Al Rashid, the first mosque in Canada, was built in 1938. The highest concentration of Muslims in Canada at the time was in the west and Edmonton was home to the largest Muslim community. Amid concern about preserving and passing on their faith and traditions to their children, local Muslim women, most notably Hilwie Hamdon, led the proposal and fundraising to build the mosque. An Edmonton Public School has been named after Hamdon. The mosque bears some resemblance to the style of a Russian Orthodox Church due to the hiring of a Ukrainian-Canadian builder, Mike Drewoth.

Al Rashid Mosque was built on the corner of 101 Street and 108 Avenue, but was relocated to 102 Street and 111 Avenue in 1946. In 1975, a new, larger mosque was built and by 1988 the original mosque was under threat of demolition. Local Muslim women again led a proposal and fundraising to move the mosque to Fort Edmonton Park, where it was formally opened in 1992.

Joanne Wojtysiak is a comic artist and illustrator based in Edmonton.  She began sketching the people and architecture of Edmonton in the mid-2000s when she discovered Enrico Casarosa’s online Sketchcrawl events and became interested in journal sketch blogs. She joined the Edmonton Sketchers in 2012 after deciding to embark on a full-time art career.

Joanne is currently working on a young adult graphic novel in the comfort of her own basement, but can be occasionally seen sketching out in the wild. She lives on the south side of the river with her husband and a small herd of bicycles.

Buena Vista Building/Glenora Bed & Breakfast, 12327 – 102 Avenue. Sketch by Joanne Wojtysiak

Despite its name, this 1912 Edmonton landmark was built on the border between what are now Westmount and Oliver neighbourhoods on the southeast corner of 102 Avenue and 124 Street.

It was originally an apartment and retail space. Designed by architects Herbert Magoon and George H. MacDonald, the building had hardwood floors on the upper storeys, high ceilings, and natural gas fireplaces and was considered a “desirable residential property”. Stone accents, decorative wrought iron railings, red brick, and curved parapets were also reminiscent of Italian-Renaissance style.

Ten apartments sat atop the retail space on street level which, over time, included the Corner Drug Store, Carrington Drugs, Standard Grocery, and James Nix’s City Grocery. A 1950 annex added a bank and more apartments.

Two of the well-known tenants in the apartments included World War I bush pilot Wilfrid “Wop” May, and Canada’s first Indigenous police officer, athletic star and World War I soldier, Alex Decoteau.

In 1994, the Freeland Family purchased the building and completed extensive renovations to the interior for a B&B and restaurant. In 2015, Edgar Developments, preserved the exterior brick during demolition, and rebuilt the façade on the street-level of their new 26-story apartment building, The MacLaren.

Government House, 12845 – 102 Avenue, Glenora neighbourhood. Sketch by Joanne Wojtysiak

Officially opening in 1913 as a residence for Alberta’s Lieutenant Governors, Government House was designed by Architect R.P. Blakey under the direction of A.M. Jeffers, Chief Architect of the Alberta Legislature Building, and constructed by the Department of Public Works.  Designed in the Jacobean Revival style with Scottish Baronial elements, the three story sandstone building is grand in scale with asymmetrical façades, decorations, bay windows, balconies, and high gabled roofs with dormers. A large conservatory was built beside the house and later demolished.

George H.V. Bulyea became the first of six Lieutenant Governors to live there, and John Bowen was the last when ordered to leave in 1938 due to political differences with Premier William Aberhart. The house was then closed as a vice-regal residence.

During and after WWII, it was used as offices and living space for American airline personnel, and then a convalescent hospital and home for veterans. Through the 1960s and 70s, the house was used for government caucus chambers and official receptions. Much needed restoration and renovation work took place in the mid-1970s, and the Government House Foundation was formed. The Foundation was instrumental in having Government House declared a Provincial Historic Resource in 1985, and a National Historic Site in 2013.

Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre, 10440- 108 Avenue, Central McDougall neighbourhood. Sketch by Joanne Wojtysiak

 The Edmonton Drill Hall, as it was originally known, was completed in 1915 for the Department of National Defense. It served as a long-term training facility for Canada’s military and was integral to the organization and mobilization of the country’s armed forces.

Designed by E.C. Hopkins, the first Provincial Architect, and D.E. Ewart, architect for the Federal Department of Public Works, it is an example of Baronial Gothic-style architecture, with stone arch doorways and distinctive corner turrets. The prominent central entrance archway opens to brick piers on either side, topped with sandstone cannonballs. Above the entrance the words “DRILL HALL” and “AD 1913 ARMOURIES” are carved in sandstone. The interior has a large convex roof with large, half-arched windows spanning its entire width.

The building was renamed the Prince of Wales Armouries in 1921. The space, home to a number of prominent regiments, became the property of the City of Edmonton in 1977. In 1991 the building underwent restoration and renovation to house the City of Edmonton Archives. Other resident organizations include the Loyal Edmonton Regiment Museum, Edmonton Heritage Council, and Edmonton Arts Council; it also serves as event space.

The building was designated as a Provincial Historic Resource in 1979 and a Municipal Historic Resource in 2004.


Thanks to the City of Edmonton, the Edmonton Heritage Council, the Edmonton Historical Board and the City of Edmonton Archives for their support of this project.

Reference sources for background history:

Ortona Armoury Arts Building

City of Edmonton Archives: RG-200, RG.17.1, RG. 17

City of Edmonton Planning & Development Department, Strategic Services, Planning & Policy Services, 6th Floor, 10250 – 101 Street. (Digital File: # 659646 – 003, pg. 136)

Ortona Armoury Historical Significance Report by Ken Tingley, 2009

Mactaggart Sanctuary

Remarkable Albertans: The Alberta Order of Excellence

Molstad House

Edmonton Maps Heritage

Alberta Register of Historic Places

Al Rashid Mosque

Edmonton Heritage Council, Edmonton City as Museum article by Shaylene Flanagan and Carolee Pollock

A New Life in a New Land: The Muslim Experience in Canada

Buena Vista Building/Glenora Bed & Breakfast

Edmonton Maps Heritage, Edmonton Heritage Council

Edmonton City as Museum Project (ECAMP), Edmonton Heritage Council

Government House

Edmonton Historical Board, Edmonton’s Architectural Heritage

Legislative Assembly of Alberta

Alberta Register of Historic Places

Government of Alberta

Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre

Alberta Register of Historic Places

Canada’s Historic Places

City of Edmonton Archives, Parks and Recreation Dept Fonds: EA-746-1 to 101

Posted by Marlena Wyman

Sketching History: The Artists Part III


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This is the third of four posts where I am featuring three more of the artists and a selection of their sketches from the exhibit Sketching History: Rediscovering Edmonton’s Architectural Heritage through Urban Sketching. The twelve artists whose work is in this exhibit are members of Urban Sketchers Edmonton, and over 100 sketches of  Edmonton’s built and natural heritage are featured in the exhibit.

Terry Elrod is an avid sketcher of cities, small towns and rural landscapes, most often in central Alberta. Now retired, he is a professor emeritus of the University of Alberta, having taught and researched in the School of Business for twenty-two years. He discovered mid-life his interest in making art, and went on to earn a Certificate in Fine Art from the University of Alberta.

Terry prefers to sketch in pen and watercolour, working quickly, simply and intuitively. This approach is hit-or-miss, but having made some 150 sketches in the past sixteen months, he has a few of merit. “Any day outside sketching is a good day.”

Sketchers in Mill Creek Ravine by Terry Elrod, 4 August 2018

Encompassing the non-residential neighbourhoods of Mill Creek Ravine North and South, the ravine winds from Connors Road to Argyll Road. It leads down to Mill Creek, named after a flour mill established by Metis businessman William Bird in 1878. Originally this area was integral to industry, including the mill, a railway and meatpacking plants before being reclaimed as a green space. The park‘s outdoor swimming pool, built in the mid-1950s, is still a popular recreational spot in the summer time.

The ravine is a haven for those looking to enjoy the outdoors without leaving the city. The trees here include white spruce, birch, aspen, and balsam poplar. Wildlife includes many birds ranging from the owl to the nuthatch as well as animals such as rabbits and coyotes.

Strathcona Train Station, 8101 Gateway Boulevard by Terry Elrod, 31 July 2018

Just south of the North Saskatchewan River, the Strathcona Train Station (also known as South Side CPR Station, Old C and E Station, South Edmonton Station) has remained a city landmark for over a century. It is just one of four remaining stations in early 20th century grand railway station design in Alberta, including Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Red Deer.

Constructed between 1907 and 1908, the brick, sandstone and timber structure is a blend of the architectural styles of Queen Anne, Scottish and French-Chateau, and Classical and Renaissance Revival. The building includes an asymmetrical octagonal tower, a broad hipped, bell-cast roof and large, surrounding overhang to protect waiting passengers.

The Strathcona Station replaced the original depot at the northern terminus of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway, and represented the CPR’s intention to develop Strathcona as the dominant terminal point in northern Alberta.

The last passenger train left this station in 1985, almost a century after the first train arrived. The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada named it a Designated Heritage Railway Station in 1992, and the Province of Alberta designated it a Provincial Historic Resource in 2004. The building has been home to a variety of businesses in recent years.

Streetscape McCauley neighbourhood, 97 Street looking South of 108a Avenue         by Terry Elrod, 7 July 2018

The neighbourhood of McCauley is one of Edmonton’s oldest. It is bounded by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway right-of-way (now the LRT tracks), First Street (101 Street), and Norwood Boulevard (111 Avenue).

It was named after Matthew McCauley who arrived in Edmonton in 1881. He helped start Edmonton’s Exhibition, organized Edmonton’s first school, was mayor and then in Alberta’s first Legislature.

McCauley became the home to the numerous ethnic groups. Little Italy runs along 95 Street and Chinatown North between 97 Street and 101 Street from 103 A Avenue and 105 Avenue. It is home to over thirteen buildings of faith.

Jo-Anne Farley is a visual artist born and raised in Edmonton. Having completed a BFA with distinction in Art and Design, she taught art in North Vancouver and Edmonton for several years. Painting and drawing remain her forte with some forays into clay and printmaking.

Jo-Anne has participated in art exhibitions in Edmonton. She also served on the board of the Women’s Art Museum of Canada and attends the Harcourt House figure drawing sessions. After discovering the Urban Sketchers Edmonton, she has also participated in many outings.

Jo-Anne is a 10th generation Canadian whose Quebecois grandparents settled in St. Albert and Edmonton areas at the beginning of the 20th century.

Hotel Macdonald and stairs to the river valley, 10065 – 100 Street by Jo-Anne Farley, 2015 

Considered by many to be Edmonton’s most iconic building, the Hotel Macdonald has been a distinguished landmark overlooking the North Saskatchewan River since it was completed in 1915 by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway.

Named for Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, it was designed by the Montreal architectural firm of Ross & Macdonald in the Canadian Chateau style of grand railway hotels. Impressive architectural details were included in the L-shaped, seven storey hotel with high pitched irregular rooflines and copper dormers. The building was finished with fine limestone, and included arches, corbelled balconies, turrets, finials and carved gargoyles. The Frank Oliver Memorial Park beside the hotel, a small but desirable downtown green space, allows for an unobstructed view of the hotel’s historic architecture.

An architecturally unsympathetic 1953 addition dubbed “the box it came in” was demolished in 1986.  The hotel closed in 1983 and, in order to save it from the wrecking ball, the City of Edmonton designated it as their first Municipal Historic Resource in 1985. Canadian Pacific Railway purchased the hotel in 1988 and it was carefully restored and reopened in 1991. Today it operates under the Fairmont banner, and remains a significant part of Edmonton’s built heritage and cultural fabric.

Indian Fusion the Curry House, 10322 – 111 Street by Jo-Anne Farley, 2 March 2019  

Indian Fusion the Curry House and Urban Timber Reclaimed Wood Co stand on part of what was originally the yards of the Canadian Northern Railway, which also absorbed the Canadian Northern and Grand Trunk Pacific Railways. The rail yards were built in 1905, and extended from 101st Street to 116 Street between 104 Avenue and 105 Avenue.  The area expanded even further with the Canadian Pacific Railway yards that were located between Jasper Avenue & 104 Avenue, and 109 street & 111 Street. These extensive rail yards (20 tracks wide) dominated much of Oliver and the western portion of downtown until 1988, when the yards were phased out of operation and by 1996, the tracks and most buildings had been removed or demolished.

The brick building that the Indian Fusion restaurant now occupies was built in the rail yard in 1944 by British American Oil Co as an oil warehouse, tank storage and pump-room. The smaller brick building across the parking lot, now Urban Timber, was built at the same time by B.A. Oil as their garage. These are the only two remaining buildings still on their original sites.

Indian Fusion represents an additional level of heritage in Edmonton: the cultural heritage of Indian and Fijian food and design. Urban Timber also represents an additional level of heritage in their use of reclaimed wood from which they make furniture, flooring and doors. Urban Timber reclaimed the wood from the Cloverdale footbridge that was demolished in 2016, and created hand-crafted furniture with a label to indicate that the wood came from the footbridge.

Edmonton Exhibition/Borden Park Roller Coaster by Jo-Anne Farley, 1992

Shortly after the outbreak of the First World War, New Yorker Lynn Welcher, a builder of roller coasters in Canada and the United States, arrived in Edmonton to construct the big wooden roller coaster The Green Rattler and The Old Mill, better known as The Tunnel of Love.

A May 7, 1915 Edmonton Bulletin reporter stated, “Mr. Welcher who owns riding devices on some of the larger exhibition grounds … was induced to come to Edmonton by Manager Stark of the Edmonton Exhibition. Edmonton has been lacking in clean outdoor forms of amusement… and the establishment of this roller coaster is the first step.”

Both structures were set up along the south fence of East End Park, half in the Exhibition Grounds and half in Borden Park. The City of Edmonton Archives has in its holdings a 1929 contract to lease the land “in occupation by a certain Roller Coaster erected therein being approximately One Hundred Feet by Four Hundred and Seventy-five feet.”

After two decades of thrilling its riders, the roller coaster was closed and dismantled in 1935.

Irina Kruglyakova came to Canada in 2008 from Russia where she worked in the ecotourism and parks system, including work as a wilderness guide. She has been making art and sketching as long as she can remember.  Her biggest loves and interests have always included nature in such activities as hiking and wildlife viewing, and much of her art is of nature-based subjects.

Although mostly a self-taught artist, she also studied graphic design at the Correspondence Popular University of Art, Vladivostok and then worked as a graphic designer in Russia for 14 years. Since coming to Alberta, first to Waterton and Canmore and then to Edmonton, she has taught art classes for children and adults.

River valley and downtown vista by Irina Kruglyakova, no date

Edmonton’s river valley and green spaces are an important element of our heritage and identity.  As stated on the City’s webpage: As the largest urban park in Canada, with more than 160 kilometres of maintained pathways and 20 major parks, the River Valley is a natural wonder for all Edmontonians to be proud of.

However, it wasn’t always so. Some of our present day beloved natural areas used to be garbage dumps, including Grierson Hill, Gallagher Park Hill, Dawson Park, Hawrelak Park, and Mill Creek Ravine. The river valley and ravines were also populated by industry: garbage incinerators, coal mines, lumber yards, brick factories, meat-packing plants and gravel pits.

In the 1920s, concerned Edmontonians such as Gladys Reeves lobbied and volunteered to recover and preserve our city’s river valleys and ravines. They also helped to beautify our neighbourhoods through the efforts of the Horticultural and Vacant Lot Garden Association and the Edmonton Tree Planting Committee.

In 1985, the City passed the River Valley Bylaw which states: As Edmonton grows and changes and as land becomes more valuable the River Valley may become threatened by commercial and industrial uses, as well as by civic uses such as public utilities.  In spite of this, threats to the river valley continue. We can follow the example of early citizens and advocate to protect our beloved green spaces.

Mill Creek Trestle Bridge by Irina Kruglyakova, 4 August 2018  

The Mill Creek Trestle Bridge is one of the last pieces of physical evidence of the Edmonton, Yukon and Pacific Railway, which first connected Strathcona and Edmonton. The rail line was built from 1900 to 1902, and the bridge that spanned Mill Creek remains in its original location, parallel to 76 Avenue.

Since the late 1970s, the bridge has been a pedestrian and biking bridge. Designated in 2004 as a Municipal Historic Resource, it underwent a major rebuilding in 2018, with 25% of original wood utilised in the restoration.

House at 13516 Ravine Drive , Glenora neighbourhood by Irina Kruglyakova, 25 July 2019

Edmonton has some fine examples of residential architecture from various eras, although many have been demolished. Henderson’s Edmonton Directories are a valuable resource for locating the names of those who owned or resided in a house over time, and in some cases, their occupations.

Glenora is one of Edmonton’s most historic residential areas. In 1869, Malcolm Groat claimed a 900-acre parcel of land extending from what is now 121 Street west to 142 Street, and south from 111 Avenue to the North Saskatchewan River. In 1906 Montreal realtor James Carruthers purchased the land for real estate development. Glenora features many grand historic homes and the streets are lined with mature elms.

Please come and explore the exhibit! It is up until December 2020.

Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre and Edmonton City Archives
10440 – 108 Ave
Mondays to Fridays 8:30am to 4:30pm and Wednesdays til 8pm
Ring the buzzer on the outside door to be let into the building

If you are not able to come to the physical exhibit, you can visit the virtual exhibit.

Thanks to the City of Edmonton, the Edmonton Heritage Council, the Edmonton Historical Board and the City of Edmonton Archives for their support of this project.

Reference sources for background history:

Mill Creek Ravine and Trestle Bridge

Herzog, Lawrence. Industry on the River.  It’s Our Heritage, vol. 25, no. 12, 22 Mar. 2007

Haukaas, Colleen.  Historic Archaeology at Edmonton’s Mill Creek Ravine by (Archaeological Survey), RETROactive: Exploring Alberta’s Past

Alberta Register of Historic Places

City of Edmonton – Mill Creek Bridges

Strathcona Train Station

Canada’s Historic Places

Edmonton Maps Heritage

City of Edmonton Archives: RG-21-2-3-EA-792-84

McCauley neighbourhood

Hotel Macdonald

Alberta Register of Historic Places

Alberta Register of Historic Places

Edmonton Historical Board, Edmonton’s Architectural Heritage

British American Oil Co/Indian Fusion the Curry House/Urban Timber

Edmonton Heritage Council, Edmonton City as Museum: Lawrence Herzog article Tracks into the Past

Global News article by Julia Wong, 21 July 2018

Henderson’s Edmonton Directories

City of Edmonton Archives: Fire Insurance maps 1954

Edmonton Exhibition/Borden Park roller coaster

City of Edmonton Archives: Clippings files; Contract #1384, July 17, 1929

Edmonton Exhibition Lands Area Redevelopment Plan Phase II by Ken Tingley, 2018.

Summer Fun in Edmonton by Elizabeth Walker, 2011. Transforming Edmonton.

Edmonton’s River Valley and Green Spaces

Provincial Archives of Alberta, Gladys Reeves fond, Acc. #1974.173

City of Edmonton Archives, City Commissioners’ Papers, RG11

Why Grow Here: Edmonton’s Gardening History by Kathryn Chase Merritt,

City of Edmonton, River Valley Parks

Glenora neighbourhood


Posted by Marlena Wyman




Sketching History online exhibit


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I am very excited about this online version of the Sketching History exhibit. Thanks to the City of Edmonton Archives for hosting this on their website and especially to Tim O’Grady and his team for their work on the online exhibit which was created from the physical exhibition at the Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre, up until December 2020. A smaller travelling exhibition is also being hosted by various branches of the Edmonton Public Library.

Sketchers in Mill Creek Ravine by Terry Elrod

Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre and Edmonton City Archives
10440 – 108 Ave
Mondays to Fridays 8:30am to 4:30pm and Wednesdays til 8pm
Ring the buzzer on the outside door to be let into the building

Thanks to the City of Edmonton, the Edmonton Heritage Council, the Edmonton Historical Board and the City of Edmonton Archives for their support of this project.

Posted by Marlena Wyman