Inglewood is an inclusive urban village in the heart of Calgary, defined, connected and sustained by its history, culture, industry, commerce, nature and people.
By: Gian-Carlo Carra
Published on April 19, 2018
The Inglewood Design Initiative was formed at the 2004 Inglewood Community Association AGM. The new committee was tasked with advocating for and deeply engaging the community surrounding the project of a new, forward-looking, and deeply integrative master plan to replace our aging ARP. The first engagement session in early 2005 was a World Cafe (a relatively new engagement technology at the time - thanks Bob Chartier!!!) where around 200 Inglewood residents, business owners, and institutional leaders shared their thoughts about our community’s best future.
The committee took that data and crafted a vision statement and five supporting mission statements pertaining to heritage, the environment, mobility, commerce, and culture which were subsequently ratified by the community and formed the basis of the IDI’s work - work that ultimately propelled me to City Hall to turn our aspirations into action. In honor of this month’s feature of local business leader and arts patron Jim Hill, I thought I’d reflect a moment on the intertwined role commerce and culture play in the living heritage of our beloved Inglewood.
Today Inglewood is a center of our City’s music scene through the many venues that form the Music Mile; the Esker Gallery anchors our visual arts street cred and is bolstered by the many commercial galleries along 9th Ave, as well as many crafting places such as Workshop Studios; our food and craft brewing culture reflect our historic agricultural connection to our landscape; our Treaty 7 roots span from Fort Calgary to the Piitoayis Program in the Colonel Walker School building and are inextricable from our bend in the Bow situation in the heart of Moh-Kins-Tsis; our faith communities are not only cultural anchors in their own rights, but, led by the Lantern, use their buildings to foster all manner of additional culture expression; and our institutional landscape from the Alexandra Centre to the new YW not only care for our most vulnerable, but are engines of culture as well. Amidst this rich cultural tapestry, creative class industries foment the emergence of Calgary’s next economy.
I had the opportunity to tour heritage professionals from across Canada through Inglewood in 2016 when the National Trust’s annual conference was held in Calgary. I was asked by these legitimately amazed professionals how one small neighbourhood could have so much going on. My answer is that Great Neighbourhoods, like Inglewood, are the best hardware humans have ever invented to run the interconnected software packages of a diversified economy and a vibrant culture.
This was something that was inherently understood by our forbearers - that it takes an ecosystem level of complexity to unleash the interplay of commerce and culture to drive prosperity and (the now problematic but important project of) progress. A.E. Cross understood it when his Calgary Brewing and Malting Company put Calgary on the map and in the process delivered Calgary’s first park, our fish hatchery, our pool and lawn bowling pitch, the first echo of the Stampede in the Horseman’s Hall of Fame and ultimately the Stampede itself - our City’s most renown cultural institution. Burns and his colleagues understood it when they invested in real estate ventures along our Main Street and bequeathed to us not only the backbone of our heritage legacy, but the adaptive cradle of all the cultural activities that set Inglewood apart today.
And Jim Hill deeply understood that when, asking himself whether an architecturally significant stand-alone museum or gallery would best fulfill his dream for the Esker, he rejected that instead for a cultural institution embedded in the creative ecosystem of a creative industry-focused mixed use building, embedded in the complex ecosystem of a Great Neighbourhood. We are lucky beyond belief that successive generations of captains of industry and patrons have invested so heavily in our community and created the spaces that have employed and inspired thousands upon thousands of creative Inglewoodonians over the decades.
I took the opportunity to read and reread Jane Jacobs’ works over the Christmas break, as well as her biography. The distilled essence of her message that I took from that deep dive is her assertion that there are no causes of poverty; there are only causes of prosperity. In Inglewood we are incredibly lucky to have inherited the living legacy of what happens when commerce and culture interplay together to form an engine of civilization. It is our solemn duty to care for and grow that engine for the benefit of our children and their children and so on.