With the pandemic-induced ban on large gatherings of more than 50 people, Arts Whistler had to run the concept for its newest roving art experience all the way up to B.C.’s top health official.
“We literally had to go up as far as [provincial health officer Dr.] Bonnie Henry to get an exemption for her current event order,” explains Mo Douglas, Arts Whistler’s executive director. “We’re joking that this event is Bonnie Henry-approved!”
Taking full advantage of the outdoor expanses the resort has to offer, Arts Whistler is inviting the community to hop on their kayak, canoe, boat or paddleboard and head on over to Alta Lake on Aug. 27 to enjoy a free, family-friendly afternoon of live music and painting from some of Whistler’s best-known creatives.
Called Art on the Lake…literally, the event had been churning in Douglas’ mind even before the pandemic, and is modelled in part after Arts Whistler’s popular Art on the Lake workshops it has been running at the Station House for several years.
“I always loved the idea of Art on the Lake and this year, we are going to literally put it on the lake,” Douglas says. “We saw the lake and really dug how we could build in physical distancing. We wanted to do something where, to get the full experience, you need to be on the water. I was joking that if you’re in a kayak or a canoe and you’re not two metres away, you might get hit by somebody’s paddle. It’s quite motivating to be physically distanced.”
Attendees are asked to either bring their own watercraft, or rent one onsite from Whistler Eco Tours or Backroads Whistler. For those who prefer to stay dry, they can set up onshore in Wayside or Lakeside parks and take in the roaming performers from there.
The south end of the lake will be transformed into a floating art exhibit featuring docks with five live painters and more than 30 artworks on display. The lineup of live painters is a who’s who of the Sea to Sky art scene, with Andrea Mueller in Wayside Park; Taka Sudo, Anna Lynch and Matt Henry at Lakeside Park; and Vanessa Stark, Ben Poechman and Dave Petko at the Alta Lake Station House. Meanwhile, David McColm, Levi Nelson, Heidi Denessen (a.k.a. Heidi the Artist), Lisa Geddes, and others, will also have their completed works featured.
On the musical front, DJ Foxy Moron (a.k.a Ace Mackay-Smith) will be spinning at the Alta Lake Station House; Rebel Appliance, Susan Holden and Sean Rose will be playing in Wayside Park, while Bob and Charlie perform in The Stone Circle overlooking the lake.
Producing events in Whistler for close to three decades, Douglas said there’s always something special about cultural experiences that incorporate the community’s breathtaking setting with its vibrant arts scene—and especially so in the middle of a global pandemic that has severely limited face-to-face gatherings.
“Everybody we talk to has been so excited about this, and I think it’s for two reasons: It is a fun idea that we haven’t done before, but the fact that we can do it now, that we can do something that feels like it’s special and different and the kind of thing we just haven’t been able to, as a community, come together and do for months and months,” Douglas says.
The new format is perhaps a sign of things to come at Arts Whistler, which has had to rethink its entire slate of future programming in the face of COVID-19. The organization is, for instance, in the process of installing a number of high-end cameras in the Maury Young Theatre to facilitate live-streamed performances and events, technology that could be tested out as early as next month for Hear and Now, Whistler’s local music festival, depending on whether an in-person festival is allowed to go ahead as planned on Sept. 19 and 20 from Whistler Olympic Plaza.
“We’ve got some content ideas and we want to be able to flesh those out with other artists in the community. There’s more to come on that front,” Douglas says.
Art on the Lake…literally is set for Aug. 27 from 3 to 7 p.m. For more info, visit artswhistler.com/art-on-the-lake-literally.
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The opening of local photographer Jennifer Irving’s Uptown art gallery, Paris Crew, is another step in a lifelong entrepreneurial journey.
“I feel like it was something I’ve had since I was young, starting little businesses,” said Irving. “I’ve had a buckwheat pillow business, I’ve had a falafel business with my brother in the City Market, I had a nail polish business when I was 12. I just always loved business for some reason.”
She pursued the idea of operating a bricks-and-mortar gallery after she held a pop-up once at the Moonlight Bazaar two years ago.
“I was just so energized about talking to people about my work. Instead of doing an online interaction, I was able to talk to people and tell them about the photos,” she explained. “That launched me into a whole idea of working with galleries or starting my own so I could showcase my work.”
After a tip from her framer, she purchased 62 Water Street, the former souvenir shop Distant Waters and a historic property built in 1885 in the wake of the Saint John fire.
Paris Crew, named after the Saint John area rowers who won the World Rowing Championship in Paris in 1867, showcases the work of artists like Cliff Turner, Timothy “Bjorn” Jones, Melanie Koteff, Shannon Gates, Leigh Donovan, as well as Irving’s own photography.
COVID-19 threw a wrench into Paris Crew’s plans to benefit from the summer cruise ship and tourist season, as well as causing renovation delays, but Irving believes the gallery will help further develop the increasingly busy Water Street.
“It’s always boggled my mind that our waterfront isn’t more developed,” she said. “I’ve fallen in love with this little block, this little area which felt a little bit empty just a few years ago. It’s coming alive and I’m happy to be a part of that.”
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Irving wants the Paris Crew to be another gallery and creative space for Saint John artists. It’s going to be a multi-functional venue where visual and musical artists could hold concerts and pop-ups, even though the pandemic has changed the shape of those original plans.
Livestreamed events and bubble concerts are some examples of potential events.
“We’re so excited to explore new ideas and different ways of doing things,” she said.
“We want to bring the arts community together, whether it’s people interested in photography, painting, or music. I’d like to see the community come together [here] and be able to celebrate the art scene here in Saint John.”
The art of compassionate care – Sherbrooke Record
Thanks to a very generous donation from an art gallery in Montreal, Grace Village is giving out thousands of dollars-worth of art this week as a way of saying thank you to its staff members for their hard work over the last six months.
“They are dedicated, committed, and have really sacrificed a lot,” said Andrea Eastman, the home’s interim executive director, explaining that the donation was arranged through a board member following a discussion about how the community could recognize the work of the staff during the pandemic. “The board had been trying to come up with a way to thank the employees and do something that is a little bit different.”
The artworks have been put on display for the residents to enjoy, and workers are being invited to come and select a work of their choice over the course of the week, based on their seniority.
Looking back on the last few months, Eastman said that the word “challenging” only scratches the surface of the realities that people working in retirement communities and long-term care homes have been facing.
“Our focus has been on keeping our residents safe and healthy,” she said. “That has guided every decision about what we needed to do.”
Eastman underlined the importance of clear communication and trust as key pillars to the success of the Grace Village community since the start of the pandemic
“It’s a shared responsibility with employees, residents, their families and other people in the community; You have to have trust in each other,” she said. “The more you communicate about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, the clearer it is that we’re all in this together.”
Asked whether the home has faced the same sorts of difficulties with people failing to respect rules and guidelines that have been reported at other care homes in the region, the interim director said that there have certainly been cases where people needed to be reminded of the reasons why things are the way they are.
“We’ve remained quite strict, but we’re trying to be as sensitive as possible,” she said.
In matters ranging from employee scheduling during a time when multiple days off in a row might be needed for a test, to figuring out how to offer residents enrichment when gathering together is largely off limits, Eastman said that her key word has been optimism.
“I try to focus on what we are able to do, rather than what we are not able to do,” she said, adding that the support and commitment of the whole team plays an important role in making a challenging situation more feasible. “What they are doing goes above and beyond what their employer is asking of them.”
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