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Sunnyside celebrated Neighbour Day with a great combo: Plants and art

The community of Sunnyside brightened up even more for Neighbour Day with a plant exchange and an art crawl.

Neighbour Day is the third Saturday in June, celebrated to remember how Calgary came together during the 2013 floods.

This year, Neighbour Day took on a different meaning, both as a reminder of the flood, but also of the coronvirus. Communities have pulled together to help one another, but have also been distanced due to public health guidelines.

This city encouraged Calgarians to celebrated Neighbour Day virtually, or with public health guidelines in mind.

Building community through plants

Lisa Patterson is the president of the Permaculture Calgary Guild, who organized the plant exchange. She talked about the impact that the hailstorm last weekend had on Calgarians.

Lisa Patterson, president of the Calgary Permaculture Guild. ANOSHA KHAN / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Many people not only lost siding and windows on their houses and cars, but it also impacted their gardens.

“A lot of our neighbors here in Calgary were hit with a devastating hail event,” she said.

“Their gardens were completely crushed under this huge, huge hail, like never been seen before really on this scale.”

She said because Calgarians are so good at giving, gardeners from around the city came together to donate plants. Those who were impacted by the storm could pick them up for free so they can replant them in their gardens.

“It’s the most neighbourly thing I can think of,” she said.

The set up of the plant exchange, with Patterson engaging with people and helping select plants. ANOSHA KHAN / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

While they do hold events such as plant sales and exchanges and teaching people about permaculture, this one was significant because it was for people who lost their gardens to hail, and allowed them to collect various plants from a central location.

Pandemic a lift to local gardening

As well, Patterson has seen a boost in people interested in gardening due to COVID-19.

“The pandemic has actually increased people’s desire to come out and get together in a safe space,” she said.

“We found that people were really anxious to start growing food and helping each other out.”

She said gardening and growing one’s own food increases resiliency, builds community and is an activity you can do at a distance.

“Everyone really just enjoys getting together and working in the garden together,” she said.

“There’s nothing really like it.”

Community engagement through public art

Karen Scarlett is an artist in the community. She said when she first considered the mural, it was important to have something that would be part of the community.

She said they painted the mural at a corner that was the hub for people after the flood. Many people gathered there to get information, food, or other needs met.

“Because it was such a hub, I thought that a chalkboard made sense so that people could continue to gather messages for the community or just share some love.”

The chalkboard is surrounded by “I heart Sunnyside” – a slogan used during the 2013 flood. The mural is painted with dogs that have lived at the property.

Dogs who lived at the residence are pictured at the top. People passing by are able to stop at Scarlett’s mural and write messages for their loved ones or the community. ANOSHA KHAN / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

“A couple of them are still alive and there’s a couple that have passed away. Another puppy is going to be added to the mural soon.”

Art crawl driving people into the neighbourhood

She said the idea for an art crawl on Neighbour Day is great because Calgary has an amazing collection of public art.

“We’ve got everything from really incredibly expensive fantastic public art to really engaging fun community pieces that are done on a shoestring,” she said.

“It makes the community much more magical.”

Many people came out to view Scarlett’s (left) artwork. ANOSHA KHAN / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY.

Scarlett said it was the first time she sat near her artwork and discussed it with residents and people participating in the art crawl for Neighbour Day.

“This is my first time celebrating it, so I’ll have to make it a regular thing,” she said.

Sunnyside’s art crawl includes various installations such as free libraries, the Sunnyside car, a Covid-19 theatre, murals, among others.