The Pulse: June 15, 2022

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  • 15°C: Rain ending in the morning then cloudy with 30% chance of showers. Wind northwest 30 km/h gusting to 50. High 15. UV index 3 or moderate. (forecast)
  • $175,000: Each UCP leadership contender will have to pay $175,000 to qualify for the race, according to party policies released June 14. (details)
  • 7pm: The Edmonton Stingers host the Fraser Valley Bandits at the Edmonton EXPO Centre. (details)
  • Purple: The High Level Bridge will be lit purple for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. (details)

A blue and purple mushroom sculpture placed in long grass as part of the Game of Shrooms day

Foraging for art offers escape from the ordinary

By Brett McKay

In the early hours of a Saturday morning, dozens of hand-crafted mushrooms cropped up around Edmonton. Cardboard polypores rooted in the brick face of an Irish pub. Stained-glass amanitas dripped off tree branches along walking trails. Knitted toadstools and psychedelic polymer caps lay in long grass, waiting for collectors – or curious passersby – to discover them.

All of them were made, placed, and hunted as part of the underground holiday known as Game of Shrooms. Started in 2019 by artist Daniel "Attaboy" Seifert, the one-day event on June 11 now has thousands of artists worldwide creating original pieces and leaving clues on social media for seekers.

"You get to be both Santa Claus and the kid on Easter morning. You get to be the mischief-maker and that person looking for something," Seifert said, describing the out-of-the-ordinary mindset Game of Shrooms kindles in participants.

Seifert began crafting and hiding mushroom-themed artworks in 2016, as a way of coping with what he described as his first real depression. While travelling to meetings in L.A., he would have a "secret agenda" of dropping off one of his creations – and dropping hints about it online. "No matter how bad my day went, I would change the narrative of my day, so I got to have a little bit more of a sense of control. It was a form of therapy, I guess, art therapy."

The idea has now grown well beyond Seifert, with the day marked on calendars in Tasmania, Hong Kong, Canada, and beyond. The original spirit behind it, of creating a moment outside the day-to-day hustle, is still largely embraced by the artists, Seifert said. Some pieces would normally sell for thousands but are instead placed as freely as those made by first-timers.

"You're gifting it to a world not knowing if anybody's going to find it. It's an art of giving it to the world."

That act of giving was the inspiration behind another art hunt that captured the imagination of Edmontonians. In the doldrums of the pandemic, sculptor and metal artist Slavo Cech began producing works to be "hidden in plain sight" around the city.

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By Kevin Holowack and Mack Male

A newspaper clipping of an ad, headlined "Hotel Cecil: Jasper Ave. Edmonton's Popular West End Hotel"

A moment in history: June 15, 1914

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1914, the newly renovated Hotel Cecil was advertising itself as an inviting spot for "Edmonton's particular people" on the city's west end.

Modern-day Edmontonians might find a few surprising things in the ad. For one, Jasper Avenue at 104 Street is no longer anywhere near the city's west end. Secondly, the hotel's reputation in its final decades was anything but inviting.

But in its early days, the Hotel Cecil held itself out as an oasis of luxury in the young, growing city. Built in 1906, the brick-and-stone building was easily recognized by the double columns flanking its Jasper Avenue entrance. The hotel was run by Francois Lannic and Charles Belanger, although Belanger soon bought out his partner and became the main owner of the building.

The hotel was expanded in 1910 and again in 1914. By that time, it boasted 65 rooms, a writing room, and a 300-seat dining room that regularly hosted a live orchestra. Special occasions saw the hotel serve decadent meals of caviar, salmon, and venison. The hotel proved to be a popular spot for visitors to Edmonton, especially for workers coming to do land surveys of Alberta. Belanger's father had been a land surveyor, and it is said he understood the particular needs of the profession.

The years between the two world wars were difficult for the city as economic growth cooled. The Cecil saw its reputation begin to decline, a slide that would continue for several decades. The period after the Second World War did see some upswing as the hotel became a popular spot for newly arrived immigrants on their way to settling in Edmonton. But by the 1980s and '90s, the Cecil was seen as little more than an eyesore and a centre of crime, with a reputation for thefts and fights that often spilled out onto the street.

In the late 1990s, the city would invest millions in trying to revitalize 104 Street and encourage residential development. But the Cecil and its rowdy reputation were seen as a hurdle to that goal. Ultimately, years of neglect caught up to the building. In 2003, the Hotel Cecil was shut down due to numerous building code and health violations. A few months later, the building itself would be gone.

The loss of the Cecil is seen by many as the start of the modern 104 Street. The strip has changed significantly in the two decades after the hotel was torn down: new towers were built, specialty stores and restaurants opened, and the strip was the home for the Downtown Farmers' Market before it moved to its indoor digs on 97 Street. While development has cooled in recent years, it hasn't stopped. Early this year, city council approved a plan for a 40- to 45-storey tower integrated into the historic Horne Pitfield warehouse on 104 Street and 103 Avenue.

This is based on a clipping found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse. Follow @VintageEdmonton for daily ephemera via Twitter.