Exploring downtown arts and culture: 2023 highlights

From the riverside appeal of Lot 6 to the cozy courtyard of Historic Fire Hall #1, downtown was a must-visit place to explore arts and culture in 2023.

“Both the Lot 6 and Historic Fire Hall #1 courtyard projects have significantly contributed to increasing downtown vibrancy in spaces that would otherwise be left unprogrammed,” said Marcello Castronuovo, City of Calgary Arts and Culture Strategist. “The sheer volume and variety of programming could only be accomplished with the trust and support of our talented community partners.”

Calgarians and visitors satisfied their summertime street food craving at Lot 6 events that included Taste of Calgary, Mexifest, Halal Ribfest and more. Art lovers also came together in the parking lot located at 3 Ave. and 8 St. S.W. to express their free-form creativity as part of the ART SPOT Expresstival. By summer’s end, more than 250,000 people enjoyed an event experience at The City’s newest downtown event site.

Over at Historic Fire Hall #1, community builder Alice Lam re-imagined the outdoor courtyard on 6 Ave. and 1 St. S.E. into a welcoming place for people from all walks of life. “This year we were able to provide the downtown residential community and Calgarians at large with a free, accessible and creative space to learn, play and build community in the downtown,” said Lam. “The historic firehall courtyard was the perfect venue to host arts, music and culture events, provide family recreation and healthcare literacy programming as well as a venue promoting up-and-coming entrepreneurs through monthly markets.”

Lam’s passion for being a difference maker ensured the courtyard activities met the community’s needs in a variety of ways. The skateboard ramp and monthly kids’ days proved popular with local youth, while an on-site greenhouse was a source of fresh herbs and vegetables for local community fridges.

Activating public spaces through programming and events is a crucial part of creating a vibrant downtown and is an area of focus for The City’s Downtown Strategy team. The diverse and innovative programming happening at Historic Fire Hall #1 and Lot 6 are great examples of how reimagining underutilized space can help foster creativity, community and a sense of belonging.

These types of projects enhance the downtown, instilling the area with more culture, activity, fun and connection,” said Kate Zago, Planner with the Downtown Strategy team. “It creates a richer experience for both downtown residents and visitors to the area.”

There were many great reasons to #ExploreDowntownYYC arts and culture in 2023. Calgarians have one more opportunity this year to take part in Historic Fire Hall #1 programming, with a Kids’ Christmas Fest taking place this Saturday, Dec. 16 from 2-5 p.m. The free, family event will feature crafts, cookie decorating, musical entertainment and a special visit from Santa. All are welcome!