Update October 2017 – Whistler Artwalk is now called We Heart Local Art and it runs year round.
On the surface, Whistler does not seem like a place where you’d find a bunch of artists. On a hot summer day you can bike, swim, raft, climb, BBQ, disc golf, jet boat or do about fifty other ridiculously fun things that will surely impress all your old high school chums on Facebook. Who has the time to stay inside and paint pictures or carve sculptures?
And yet in spite of all the outdoor temptations, Whistler’s local arts scene is vibrant and productive. And the proof is hanging in 35 local businesses for the 11th annual Whistler Artwalk, a summer-long exhibition that places local Sea to Sky artwork in cafés, retail outlets, restaurants and hotels.
“This is a great town if you want to be an artist,” says Andrea Mueller, Visual Arts Programmer for the Whistler Arts Council. “There is a lot of support here from both the established arts community and the community at large. It’s a small pond and you can get your feet wet very easily at events like Artwalk.”
And over the years that “small pond” has nurtured some incredible talent. Renowned artists like Chili Thom, Lani Imre and Taka Sudo are all Whistler Artwalk alumni. And while a lack of cheap studio and gallery space can make it difficult for local artists, events like Artwalk offer an incredible opportunity to showcase a body of work to visitors from all over the globe.
“The businesses are really supportive and actively promote the artists they host,” Mueller explains. “Having a place to exhibit for two months is great for an emerging artist—they are often pretty shy or introverted.” With guests in Whistler from around the world, partaking in Artwalk can lead to that all important first big sale.
“Baz, the artist showcasing at Moguls sold a piece before we even set up,” Mueller says. “The selections this year are all about variety – everything from graffiti to contemporary to pottery. We actually had more landscapes this year than ever before.”
Landscape artwork makes sense considering all the stunning mountain scenery Whistler artists live, work and play in but over the past two decade the Whistler arts scene has grown to include more urban and lowbrow/underground work. Whistler artists, it seems, find time to create, evolve and enjoy the perks of a mountain lifestyle.
“It rains sometimes and it gets dark at 4 PM in the winter,” says Mueller, herself an artist and four-time Artwalk exhibitor. “In the summer it’s hard to stay inside and paint but the rest of the year, you can hibernate for months at a time and build up a sizeable body of work.” Then in the summer, you hang it at Artwalk and hit the beach or Bike Park. We’ve all heard of the ‘starving artist’ struggling to get by but in Whistler, with community events like Artwalk helping with exposure, ‘distracted artist’ may be a more apt description.
Venue maps/passport are available at Millennium Place and the Whistler Visitor Centre. While you’re checking out the local art don’t forget to hit up some of Whistler’s established art galleries and museums too. Art is life, and life is good.