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Katie Allard doesn’t serve food or beverages, but her work will be part of an open-air art gallery, dishing up an appealing experience for Calgarians as patio season is upon us.

Allard is one of 21 local artists selected to mix paint and talent to infuse life and vibrancy into some of the grey concrete barriers designed to act as a protection function around patios this summer.

Over one weekend in May, Allard, a multidisciplinary Cree artist and printmaker, spent about 24 hours painting her four barriers.

“It’s art that’s public and functional and as an emerging artist I am so honoured to be part of this opportunity to create,” says Allard, who was selected as part of The City’s partnership with the BUMP Festival Road Works program. More than 300 artists applied to the program this year.

“Not only will it increase my skill set as I have never painted outdoors, but I’m also excited to be able to do something so cool and so visible for the community,” she says. “Who doesn’t love patio season?”

Annie MacInnis, Executive Director Kensington Business Revitalization Zone agrees. “Patios are the living room of a city. These are the places Calgarians spend time, meet friends and socialize in a safe, thriving and vibrant space,” says MacInnis. “For some people, their homes are small, or living spaces unenjoyable, or not a place they feel comfortable socializing. Patios are a place for everyone.”

MacInnis says anywhere there’s available real estate you will find a patio in Kensington this season and many businesses have collaborated to reduce building and construction costs and maximize accessibility. “We have patios in front of businesses, in alleys, behind buildings, in parking lots, on sidewalks, on boardwalks, behind buildings, you name it, we have found ways to support businesses and provide options for Calgarians.”

Carol Armes with the Advisory Committee on Accessibility at City of Calgary says the patio network has come a long way over the past few years in increasing accessibility.

“The goal is a clear path of travel for everyone. Whether that’s someone in a wheelchair, scooter or a visually impaired customer we all want to be included and be part of that community.”

Armes encourages Calgarians to provide feedback on accessibility to 311. “We’re never finished with doing a better job at improving accessibility. It needs to constantly be monitored and addressed. It’s not perfect, but we’ve come a long way.”

Andrew Sedor, Mobility Initiative Leader, is looking forward to another successful season and notes that all patios should be open by the third week of June.

“We are focused on improved accessibility, safety and supporting small business,” he said, adding that for the fourth year in a row, The City is waving the permit fees for seasonal patios, although fees are set be reinstated for next year, 2025.

“On top of the economic benefits, increase in job opportunities and a draw for Calgarians and tourists alike, patios add vibrancy, character and connection to our communities,” said Sedor, noting that 110 restaurants were part of the program in 2023, with a similar number this year.

Vince Schaeffer, owner of Four Dogs Brewing company on 1st Street S.W., is looking forward to his second patio season after adding 16 extra seats to his outdoor space in 2023.

“We have a sidewalk out front and it’s good traffic,” says Schaeffer, adding that he increased his staff by two employees last year and experienced an increase in revenue.

“The City’s approval process is quite easy and the space we were assigned was clear cut and not confusing,” he says. “And of course, having the fees waived this year is very valuable for a business like mine.”

MacInnis agrees. “There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to patios and The City has made the process painless and does a very good job of allowing businesses to be creative and be successful. It’s a fantastic relationship and that’s evident in the success of our patios.”

Calgary Parking collaborates on the seasonal patio program by providing restaurants access to on-street paid parking areas. Last year, about 185 parking spaces were utilized by restaurants as part of the patio program.

“Providing restaurants access to on-street parking areas for our short patio season feels like the right way to help more people enjoy this initiative,” says Reachel Knight, Calgary Parking’s Leader of Strategic Business Planning. “We are looking forward to helping Calgarians and local businesses make the most of the season.”

In addition to the painted concrete barriers, The City uses oversized planters for traffic protection and safety purposes along patios and boardwalks on 4th Street, Bridgeland, 17th Ave SW, Beltline, Kensington and Inglewood, says Sedor.

“This year, in preparing for drought restrictions, we’re reducing the number of planters by one-third as well as using more drought tolerant plants to help with water conservation,” says Sedor. “For safety, we are also adding low-profile barriers to replace the planters we are not installing this year due to potential drought restrictions.”

For Allard, who has wanted to be an artist since she was in kindergarten and has a Bachelor of Fine Art degree in Painting from the Alberta University of the
Arts and two design diplomas from Lethbridge College, she is looking forward to seeing her artwork in the wild.

She hopes that her concrete barrier’s new bright colours, funny characters and child-like illustrations spark happiness for patio-goers.

“I am excited for myself, and all the other artists and I hope Calgarians can find a way to connect with my art.”

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Sean Chu

Sean Chu arrived in Calgary from Taiwan in 1985 speaking not a word of English, and within 7 years he was a sworn officer with the Calgary Police Service. From that point on Sean worked with the Calgary Police Service as on Officer for 21 years in a number of roles until 2013.

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