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     Edmonton:  Cultural Life

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by Adriana Albi Davies, Ph.D. 

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The Italian Cultural Centre, Edmonton.  Photo by Adriana Albi Davies of the Heritage Community Foundation. While the Congress viewed itself as an "umbrella" with its board being made up of presidents of other societies, its pre-eminence was not readily accepted by some organizations.  This was particularly true for the Italian Cultural Society, founded in the same year by a group of individuals largely from the Veneto.  Founding directors included Mario Cancian, Gino Antonello, Jack Parpinel, Lorenzo Giacobbo and Giovanni Bragaglia.  They were successful in building a cultural centre with funding support from the governments of Edmonton, Alberta and Canada.  They have housed societies such as the Dante Alighieri Society, Fogular Furlan and the Bocciofila Club of Edmonton.

The Piazza Italia Seniors apartments in Edmonton\'s Little Italy.  Photo by Adriana Albi Davies of the Heritage Community Foundation.As a result of vision on the part of various community leaders, four centres were built in the 1980s:  the Italian Cultural Centre, the new Santa Maria Goretti Centre, the Italian Seniors Centre and Piazza Italia Seniors apartments.  The first is located in the Peter Lougheed Multicultural Village off the St. Albert Trail; the latter three are in Edmonton's Little Italy.  All but the Santa Maria Goretti Centre benefited from government funding programs including civic, provincial and federal.  The centres give the social life of the community a focus and anchor, and are popular venues for a range of Italian society activities and social events.  The food is Italian and substantial and draws bookings from non-Italian sources.  The centres, as other Italian societies, have resulted in a generation of community leaders who are skilled in financial management and operations.  There is also a camaraderie and collegiality in spite of regional differences.

On the other hand, the Congress became a programming entity and, under its various presidents (including Carlo Amodio, Rudy Cavaliere, Tony Mazucca, Fausta Marazzo, Adriana Albi Davies and Sam Amelio), the organization undertook outreach activities with the community-at-large.  It is responsible for the Italian pavilion at the popular Heritage Days Festival, which has over 400,000  participants and about 50 ethnocultural groups at its celebration of food and dance at Hawrelak Park the July/August holiday long weekend. 

On the board of Il Congresso newpaper are - from left to right - Carlo Amodio, general manager; Rudy Cavaliere, art director; and Alessandro Urso, editor and founder.  Photo by Cindy Ewanus of the Heritage Community Foundation.The Congress was also instrumental in the founding of the Il Congresso newspaper in April, 1984 - the longest-existing Italian paper in Alberta.  The Congress, as well as undertaking talent shows, plays, concerts, exhibits at the Provincial Museum of Alberta on Christmas traditions and the University of Alberta Hospital, McMullen Gallery, and other recognition events, has also provided support to a range of worthwhile activities.  It led fundraising efforts for Eritrean The NCIC donated funds for Edmonton's new Convention Centre fountain in 1979.  Photo courtesy of Rudy Cavaliereand Italian earthquake relief, and also donated funds to commemorate Edmonton's 75th anniversary.  The city was building its new Convention Centre and the NCIC, led by Carlo Amodio, suggested that it incorporate a fountain in its design.  The community would have preferred a stand-alone fountain but the architects chose to make the fountain the central architectural feature cascading as a waterfall down the centre of the building.

The relationship with the Government of Italy must be discussed.  We have seen that in the Fascist era, consular agents saw "Italians abroad" as citizens and actively courted them.  However, in the process of acculturation and assimilation, the loyalty shifts from the homeland to the host country.  This certainly has happened with Edmonton's Italian community.  Edmonton has had a series of consular agents including Pietro Colbertaldo, Victor Losa, Salvatore and Luigi Biamonte, Angelo Biasutto and Peter Caffaro, Q.C.  Mr. Justice Caffaro was the last honorary consul. 

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Copyright © 2002 Adriana Albi Davies, Ph.D. and The Heritage Community Foundation

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