By Mariah Wilson, June 27 2017 —
A colourful playground, lively music and a vibrant red door welcomed visitors to the McHugh House on June 17, Neighbour Day. The grand opening represents a coming-of-age for Calgary’s music scene, a chance for individuals of all ages and backgrounds to come together in an inter-generational, inclusive space. It’s also a breath of fresh air to see a historical house repurposed for a modern use in a city that’s known for tearing down the old to make way for the new.
Upon entering, guests were greeted with DJ Kendra Scanlon teaching the ropes to an older couple. With the windows open behind them, the summer breeze mixes with their laidback beats, carrying a soundscape for passersby to enjoy. This space shaped the corner of 17th Ave. and Centre St. into a hub of music and laughter.
The small architectural details of the space are breathtaking — for example, you can look down the first set of stairs and get an aerial perspective of the activities happening below. The house is divided into several different rooms, ideal for hosting multiple recording and jam sessions at the same time.
The McHugh House features portraits and old photographs of its former inhabitants and locations as a nod to its past. Most can be found on the shared spaces on the ground floor.
Contemporary art by Shelagh McHugh Cherak — the great-granddaughter of J.J. McHugh — is featured on the second floor. Her artwork is a modern take on the Calgary Stampede urban attendees, focusing on their body language, attire and gestures to capture candid moments. Besides the art’s direct connection to the McHugh House, it also relates to the stampede grounds, which are located down the street, within sight of the McHugh House.
From the second floor balcony, people are coming together in the green space beside the house. In future years, this will be a versatile space for concerts to be held and visitors to relax in the sun. The Calgary Public Library set up a booth at the party featuring a diverse range of instruments that can be rented from the library system, further showing how the music community in Calgary can be connected, supported and strengthened through an inclusive and timeless space.