Naomi Pahl has spent much of her time cultivating arts initiatives, the gardens of her friends and neighbours, and the well-being of her community through volunteerism and creativity.

Pahl, who lives in McCauley with her husband and four children, is a musician, a gardener, and a champion of everything creative. 

“I feel like I’ve been an artist my whole life,” says Pahl. “I always had my hands in something. And then I was homeschooled for a number of years, so I really had a lot of free time to explore that.”

Pahl has ADHD, which she didn’t know growing up, and leaning into her creativity and finding an outlet was important for her. Her mother, who wanted to be a home economics teacher, taught Pahl everything she knew, and her aunts are Red Seal chefs who taught her about baking, cooking, and preserving. 

“I’m a millennial Martha Stewart,” says Pahl with a laugh. “I have my hand in everything that I can, and because I love art and crafts, I like to try to be creative in whatever I’m doing.” She notes that anything can be creative, from cooking to gaming. And she adds that even people who claim not to have a creative bone in their body can practice creativity if they stop limiting their perceptions of what creativity means.

Pahl has also been playing guitar since she was eight years old, and she started a dream-pop band — the Civil Union — with her husband, Andrew. They released several singles in 2021 and an album the year before that, and they are hoping to perform at coffee shops soon to get their feet wet playing live shows. 

Art is another one of Pahl’s passions, and she tries to use only upcycled materials in her pieces. She uses old fibre, like that from wool sweaters, and repurposes it into stuffed animals or needle felting art. Oil painting is another one of Pahl’s favourite mediums. 

Pahl says she realizes that creativity is an important part of her life and human existence in general. “As I grew and became a mother, I really spent many years not being creative… and I felt really mentally unwell,” says Pahl. “And then as part of therapy, I just realized how much… the act of creativity was important to me in order to be well — physically, mentally, emotionally.”

Recently, Pahl has been sharing her love of gardening with community members. When she first moved into her home in McCauley with her husband, Pahl went to the backyard, flipped over several cracked concrete patio blocks, and planted a garden. “It was so bountiful and I’m like, ‘I don’t even know what I’m doing,’” says Pahl, smiling. “I’ve never been that successful in the garden since. It was totally beginner’s luck.” That experience sparked her passion for gardening as she realized she could feed her family with homegrown food.  

She has taken this passion and helped friends and clients redesign their yards to create sustainable food forests that suit their needs. She uses mulch to create a low-maintenance garden that can fit a plethora of plants, especially fruits and vegetables, that are suited to Alberta’s climate. 

Pahl is also an active volunteer in the community. She worked with Abundant Community Edmonton several years ago, she has volunteered at Kaleido Festival and Deep Freeze Fête  with Arts on the Ave, and she participated in the Imagine Jasper Avenue initiative by creating large, graphic frames that were displayed outside.

At Deep Freeze Fête, she led family craft sessions, gave canning and preserving presentations, and offered a video on how to make borscht, and she still has plenty of ideas on how to bring more arts, crafts, and even gardening to the festivals in the future. 

Pahl initially started volunteering as a way to connect with artists and have a space to create as well. But after seeing inner-city challenges first-hand in her neighbourhood, and occurrences like overdoses and crime that many people want to ignore, Pahl combined creativity with activism in her volunteer work. 

“Just in the last five to six years, I realized how important it was [to get involved] if you want to see change in the world, [systemic] change… you have to get involved and you can’t just esoterically click ‘like’ on your social media and feel like that’s involvement,” says Pahl. “I realized just how many opportunities there were to get involved in the community through volunteer work.” 

Pahl encourages everyone to become involved in their neighbourhoods and to get to know their neighbours. And most importantly, she encourages everyone to embrace their creativity, no matter what it looks like. 

“Let go of end results or what [you] perceive success as and realize that it’s not the art piece or the object that you create or the outcome [that’s important], it’s the process that has been fulfilling to you.”