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Arts mayor

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I thought my hometown was kind of boring and straight until it named hip hop artist Cadence Weapon its new poet laureate.

Brilliant move, Edmonton! So brilliant I almost want to move back.

The guy is a Polaris Prize nominee. He is witty and thoughtful and cute. His grandpa is Edmonton Eskimo legend Rollie Miles, so the football fans can relate. He has never fled Edmonton for Toronto or NYC and he sprinkles fond and funny Edmonton references all through his lyrics. He made lame Edmonchuk instantly hip.

The move got more glowing press than you could buy with the biggest Spirited Energy or Homecoming 2010 budget.

Cadence Weapon was plastered all over A3 of the Globe, on the National, all over CBC radio, in the Freep, on the wires, in every alt-weekly, everywhere. All he talked about was Edmonton. The city is suddenly the trendy arts capital of Canada - totally unfair, since Winnipeg's arts scene is way more vibrant, accessible and edgy.

Winnipeg has tons more artistic soul that Edmonton. But you know what Edmonton has that we don’t? A mayor who champions the arts, who really understands the value of The Fringe, public art, the New Music Festival, Miriam Toews, the new West End all bring to a flat, cold, new city.

It's an open secret in Edmonton that Mayor Stephen Mandel pays the $5,000 poet laureate honourarium himself from his own pocket. He's a regular fixture at arts events in the city and rarely fails to tout the city's creative community in speeches.

Now, I’m not saying Mayor Sam Katz needs to pony up cash for a poet laureate. That little bit of brilliance might not work here.

I’m just saying that it’s remarkable what a measley $5,000 can do for a city when it’s spent on something other that a hockey team or a football stadium or a pothole.

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About Mary Agnes Welch

Mary Agnes Welch joined the Free Press in 2002, first as a general assignment reporter and then covering city hall and the Manitoba legislature before moving to her current post as public policy reporter.

Before Winnipeg, she worked at the Windsor Star and the Odessa American, a small daily newspaper in West Texas. There, in addition to covering more than 20 counties, she took high school football scores from coaches all over West Texas by phone every Friday night.

Mary Agnes is a graduate of Columbia University’s journalism school, has won several Western Ontario Newspaper Awards and has been part of two teams of reporters nominated for a Michener Award. In 2011, she was nominated for a National Newspaper Award in the beat category. She is also the former national president of the Canadian Association of Journalists.

She once misspelled "Shih Tzu" in the paper and received 37 emails from angry dog-owners.

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