Edmonton’s largest urban art gallery has just closed its doors, and you probably thought it was just a place to workout.
Fitset Ninja Warrior is moving out of its original home in Kingsway to a new location just down the road. Over the course of the last six months, this recreational phenomenon has grown to be a bustling location for school groups, parties, and Edmonton warriors looking to prove themselves. However, what many people may not know is that it didn’t just open its doors to people looking for fun, physical activity — it also opened its doors (for free) to artists looking for a canvas to practice on.
Kingsway has a long tradition of opening its doors to artists. In 2016, when the former Target store closed the doors on all of its 130,000 sq. ft. of space, Kingsway had some downtime before redevelopment of the department store space commenced. It gave out the call to local artists: “Free canvas- paint provided. Bring art.” It quickly became the largest studio space in the country – an entire floor of a closed department store. For months leading up to the construction artists flocked to the space to practice their craft and leave something behind.
That space became the stage for a number of Kingsway events. The seventh annual High School Fashion show fundraiser for the Edmonton Public Schools Foundation brought original fashions designed, built, and modeled by high school students. Kingsway partnered with iHuman and Fitset to bring numerous free, public fitness programs to the space in support of the iHuman Youth Society. So of course when Fitset moved into the former SEARS space with their new Ninja Warrior workout centre, it was only natural to open the doors to artists again. Only this time, they came in droves.
What followed is what you see in the gallery below. This is only a small sample of what the generous and talented Edmonton art community worked on in those few months. They came with spray cans, for the promise of what they needed most – a canvas. The images on this page may be all that is left of this hidden gallery as the Fitset Ninja Warrior space has now closed to the public in preparation for a major redevelopment project starting at Kingsway. As is the case with street art, its paintings will quietly fade into the past, living on in memories and photographs only.
But as one gallery closes – an even larger one opens. Kingsway has just embarked on its most ambitious artistic adventure to date – the launch of the Kingsway Mural Project. In partnership with Edmonton’s Rust Magic Mural Festival, artists have begun to paint thousands of square feet of murals on walls around Kingsway. Some of the pieces are already complete and more will follow in the coming months. This isn’t just wallpaper for Instagram’s sake either – these are pieces from artists with voices, speaking (even screaming, in some cases) through the drywall. The aim is to inspire other businesses and property owners in Edmonton to open their doors to artists.
Much like the gallery at Ninja Warrior, the art is not permanent. The hope is that it will endure until the fall for the Rust Magic Mural Festival, but there are no guarantees here. If you want to see these pieces in person, there is no time like the present.