Reasons to Love Calgary: Young People Staying and Creating



It’s a long-held notion that Calgary suffers from brain drain, that the talented young people who have the potential to enrich our city instead move away to find fame and fortune. But that’s changing. Calgary’s new creative class is born and raised in Calgary, and they’re staying to make a difference.

Jason Eng, photographer

Jason Eng is a portrait and fashion photographer who operates Studio 122, a photography studio, with fellow photographer, Colin Way. In 2009, Eng, Way and photographer Greg Gurla founded the annual exhibition Muse, which takes place during the Exposure photography festival. Muse brings together some of the most creative minds in the city. 

(Studio 122, 122 4029 8 Ave. S.E., studio122.org)

Ian and Lisa Davies, brother and sister shop owners and graphic designers

Ian Davies.

Ian and Lisa Davies co-own The Uncommons. One of their mandates for the store is to “celebrate the vibrant community of creatives and foster new connections,” says Lisa. They do this by actively participating in the community around them.

Lisa Davies.

Lisa recalls that, not long ago, the options in this city were sparse; however, in recent years, the volume of free or accessible events has grown considerably. “I actually have trouble keeping up with the events that swing through, from Wreck City and Sled Island, to other festivals and art openings,” she says. 

The fast pace and constant change of the city pushes the two to dream big and carry out their vision. “I know this sounds cliché,” says Ian, “but this city and the people in it just inspire me to want to do my best and be a part of it. It’s a really exciting time to be in Calgary.”

(The Uncommons, 1325 9 Ave. S.E., theuncommons.ca)

Alkarim Devani, home builder and fashion entrepreneur

As the owner of Beyond Homes, a residential development company focused on inner-city living, and co-owner and co-founder of Calgary-based menswear label Hors De Combat, Alkarim Devani quite literally takes a “build-it-and-they-will-come” approach to working in Calgary. Both businesses are intent on creating a market that appreciates high-quality design and attention to detail.

“Passion-driven products, in my mind, not only will generate revenue, but will ultimately last longer and help foster cultural environments because they are created with a unique vision, rather then a [return-on-investment] model,” says Devani.

(Beyond Homes, 2106 54 Ave. S.W., beyondhomes.ca)

Allison Lynch, singer and actor

Allison Lynch is a classically trained singer, songwriter, composer and actor who is now one of Calgary’s most in-demand performers, having worked with almost all of the city’s professional theatre companies. She chooses to live and work in Calgary because of its thriving atmosphere.

“It gives us a chance to grow with the city, artistically, and to knit ourselves and our art into the fabric of whatever that city is becoming,” she says. “It’s exciting to think my artistic voice could become a definitive part of Calgary’s makeup.”

Stafford Perry, actor

Stafford Perry is an actor and educator who has worked all over Canada, including at the Vancouver Playhouse, Neptune Theatre in Halifax and Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, and he appears regularly on Calgary’s professional theatre stages. While his career takes him across North America, he says Calgary is very open to young artists.

“In general, the theatre community in Calgary is quite young,” he says. “People who’ve recently stepped into positions of leadership are of a younger generation. They’re the people who are setting the tone.”

Frances Strathern, goldsmith and jewellery designer

Goldsmith and owner of Franny E Adornment Inc., Frances Strathern produces innovative and creative jewellery. Her work combines the fragility of nature with the hard materials of precious metals and stones. Living and working in Calgary feeds her desire to create. “I love the changing seasons, despite the gruelling cold in the winter,” she says. “While I hope to travel for business and inspiration, I know Calgary will always be my home.”

She also draws inspiration from her fellow Calgarians. “Every day, I get more and more inspired by people who are willing to be different and make a go of something that they are passionate about,” Strathern says. 

(Franny E Adornment Inc, 72 Woodlark Dr. S.W., frannyejewelry.com)

Teslin Ward, makeup artist

As one of the most sought-after makeup artists in the city, frequent Avenue contributor Teslin Ward has
helped some of the city’s most influential people look their best. The lure of the world’s fashion capitals always beckons, but Ward is adamant Calgary has much to offer. 
“Especially over the past few years, it’s really started to flourish and behave more like a city,” she says. 

After training at the Blanche Macdonald Centre in Vancouver, Ward came back to Calgary in 2005 to gain experience and get her foot in the door as a young makeup artist. As she grew, so did the industry around her. “I love being a part of a community that I am watching grow before my very eyes,” she adds, citing PARK, a group that promotes local artists and fashion designers, and Studio 122 as creative incubators for her circle of influence.  

For more reasons why we love YYC, visit AvenueCalgary.com/lovecalgary. And, share what you love about our city through Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook using #lovecalgary. We'll collect your thoughts and add them to our collection as they come in.

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