Wesley Andreas is an influential community builder. He has been involved in countless projects in Spruce Avenue and the Alberta Avenue district since moving to Edmonton from Calgary in 2012, and he continues to be very involved in championing community, local history, and art initiatives in the neighbourhood.
Andreas moved to Edmonton for work, but it was also important for him to find community. “Part of the reason I applied to work [in Edmonton] was because I wanted to… set down roots in a neighbourhood where I felt like you could build community,” says Andreas. He had heard about Alberta Avenue, especially the arts and festivals that thrive in the area, and he wanted to become a part of that.
“My partner and I moved to Edmonton with the idea that we could buy a house somewhere in the Ave communities, settle down, build some roots, get connected in the community, [and] build relationships,” continues Andreas.
Once Andreas was settled in the kind of ‘40s character home he had always dreamed of owning, something that wasn’t affordable in Calgary, he began to look into the history of his home and Spruce Avenue’s history in general. This led him to the Spruce Avenue Community League, and he got involved right when they started thinking about creating a history project for their 65th anniversary.
Local history is a big passion of Andreas’, and he caught the local history bug after going to a “learn about your house” event when he was growing up in Windsor, Ontario.
“That got me interested in local history and [understanding] a bit more about what you could find out and all… the background and how [history] could be really connected to place, as opposed to just the generic dates that you memorize of some far-off place… in a history class,” says Andreas.
“Local history really ties you to a place and you can really think about… where are we sitting right now and what happened before and how is that connected.”
Andreas co-founded the Spruce Avenue Celebrates History project with league treasurer Verna Stainthorp, which started during the league’s 65th anniversary. It has become a multi-year project involving several initiatives like the house history research and placard program, a pop-up museum where residents bring historical items that represent the neighbourhood, and a seminar on how to research your house’s history.
Andreas is currently the secretary and the history director at the league, and his position as the history director involves advocating for the historical elements of the neighbourhood.
When Spruce Avenue underwent neighbourhood revitalization, Andreas advocated to include original street names underneath the current names. After some back and forth with the city, Spruce Avenue was approved for the signs, including on arterial roads, which are often left out.
Andreas also leads Spruce Avenue’s Jane’s Walk every year, taking residents through the neighbourhood and teaching them about local history.
And Andreas’ neighbourhood contributions extend even further. Andreas was part of #DIYcity, painting a mural on his garage to reimagine Edmonton community space. He also participated in #100in1DayYEG, where he led a project called Animate the Alleys. He encouraged volunteers from Alberta Avenue neighbourhoods to paint their garages and create a pop-up engagement space in their alley for a day. They were able to animate 10 alleys throughout Alberta Avenue. The following year, Andreas held an initiative called Red Chair Ave, where he brought over 60 chairs to underutilized spaces in Alberta Avenue and encouraged people to sit down and have a conversation.
Through his positions on the board, Andreas hopes to continue building capacity and connecting with more neighbours.
“I’m always interested in getting more people involved, so I’m always interested in ways to build capacity to, to get other people excited so that they get involved,” says Andreas. “That’s what really keeps me going…. the idea that we can get other people involved and they can see and understand their community better and understand the value of connecting with their neighbours and learning about their local history.”