Denise Assaly worked for 38 years with the biggest names and venues in Edmonton’s art scene to release a go-to guide for every noteworthy event in the city.
But on June 9, Assaly tweeted that the 2017-2018 season poster would be the last and thanked art enthusiasts in the city for “a great run.”
She found the inspiration for her business from a Toronto publication called City Nights. When she moved back to Edmonton in 1979, she realized there was nothing like it in her hometown.
The business has been going strong ever since, but Assaly decided she wanted to put the life of deadlines behind her.
“Its just time to move on,” she said. “There’s lots to do in life that’s distracting me, and I’d like to start doing it.”
The posters, found on Edmonton street corners, are filled with pictures, titles and dates of events at venues such as the Waterdale and Varscona theatres.
Nightlife was not only a poster, according to its website, but an online brochure and a Scanlife app to provide up-to-date information on concerts, plays and arts events every two weeks.
‘Nothing will be able to replace it’
In its last ad with Nightlife, the Theatre Network thanked Assaly for her years of dedication to the arts scene.
“Nothing will be able to replace it,” said artistic director Bradley Moss. “She created something beautiful for the city, and I’m sad to see it go.
“She understood what it was like to support community. Sometimes, she would offer free ads. It’s just another loss in local arts coverage.”
Josh Senchuk, with Bottom Line Productions, an advertising agency for arts and entertainment groups, said his company has worked with Assaly for more than 20 years.
“We all worked with her in communications centres, print and online over the years,” Senchuk said. “She became a real supplier and patron of the arts.”
Assaly has kept a copy of every poster published, from the first in 1979 to the last edition. She said she is proudest of Nightlife issue that featured a big ad for Bob Marley. For her, it brings back memories of the Jamaican reggae star’s concert at the Kinsmen Field House.
“I was standing really close to the stage,” she said. “[This job’s] been really fun.”
All the posters and brochures are being donated to the City of Edmonton archives.
City archivist Kathryn Ivany said she’s “dying to get her hands on” the collection.
“Edmonton’s nightlife hasn’t really been studied and is not well documented,” Ivany said. “Nightlife has captured some of the little moments in our venues.”
Assaly hopes the archives will be accessible to the public during the annual Historic Festival, to be held July 1 to July 8.
‘Sign of the times’
Kaelyn Saunders, assistant manager at Tix on the Square, said Nightlife’s closure is no surprise, with society’s switch to digital.
“It was a one-stop shop to see all the events happening in the city … but Nightlife was a sign of the times,” she said. “Social media is a much better way for us to connect to artists and re-post content.”
But Moss said there’s still room for publications like Nightlife for people who want to learn about arts events in the city.
“This is like a canary in a mine shaft, just one example of a lack of arts coverage happening across the country,” he said.
Moss and Saunders agreed the arts scene in Edmonton is growing, but that a quick-and-easy summary of events in the city is still needed to get more people out.
Assaly hasn’t ruled out the possibility of selling her business to an interested buyer. But first she’s off to Europe to start her retirement with art shows in Croatia and Venice.
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