Insider’s Guide: Art in Unexpected Places

Insider’s Guide: Art in Unexpected Places

There’s something about public art – it elicits a certain feeling, an escape from reality, a pocket of creativity that allows us to be removed from the setting, complacent in the most beautiful way. In a place like Whistler with such stark beauty, it can be too easy to miss the little things – but that seems to make each piece more special, more purposeful, and in the end even more magnetic.

Inukshuk on Whistler Mountain

One of the many Inukshuks in Whistler, undoubtedly the most recognized public artworks. JUSTA JESKOVA PHOTO

Whether it’s while you’re enjoying a cup of coffee, taking a hike in the woods, or walking down the Village Stroll, Whistler is full of public art that can be enjoyed at the most unexpected times. There’s something magical about stumbling across art outside of a traditional gallery, so we’ve outlined a few of our favourites. Check them out below and don’t miss an opportunity to go on a self-guided walk next time you’re in town.

In the Woods

The Train Wreck

In 1956, before the Sea o Sky Highway was a two-lane masterpiece weaving through the Coast Mountains, the railway served as the main form of transportation up and down the corridor. When the train derailed after coming into an area on the track under repair with a bit too much speed, the cars flew off the track and were eventually moved deeper into the woods so the flow of goods up and down the corridor could continue.

The boxcars sit just south of Function Junction, scattered throughout the old-growth forest in a perfectly disorganized manner, and over the past 20 years, local artists have taken it upon themselves to use the cars as their canvas. With an eccentric mix of graffiti, paintings, personal messages and even mountain bike jumps built on the cars, it’s certainly a sight to see – and its setting in the beautiful old-growth forest of Cheakamus isn’t too shabby either.

A graffiti covered boxcar in Whistler

Accidental, interactive public art at its best. PHOTO MARK MACKAY

With the appropriate footwear, you can also visit the train wreck site in the winter. PHOTO JUSTA JESKOVA

Check out the Insider’s Guide: Whistler’s Iconic Train Wreck Hike to find your way to the site – it’s just the mix of history, nature, and creativity that epitomizes Whistler.

On the Village Stroll

Of course, there are galleries, museums and cultural institutions throughout the Village – all of which you can explore on the Cultural Connector – but the Village Stroll itself offers plenty of art for those with a keen eye.

A Timeless Circle Sculpture

The 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games left their mark on the Whistler Village in many different forms, but this piece of public art seems to stand out above the rest. Inspired by the melting pot that the Whistler Village became as citizens from all over the world descended upon the Village, A Timeless Circle is a collection of bronze sculptures (86 to be exact) which depict the faces artist Susan Point came across during her time in the Village during the Olympics. Both unique and unexpected, A Timeless Circle is an installation you should not miss while visiting Whistler.

A Timeless Circle Sculpture by Susan Point

Mesmerizing from any angle. PHOTO NIKKEY DAWN

INSIDER TIP: Find more art and sculptures in the plazas, squares and parks connected to the Village. Check the orange markers on the Whistler Village Cultural Map for locations. If the artwork is a part of the Cultural Connector you can dial 604-935-8215 and punch in the three-digit code displayed on the artwork to hear a recording about the piece.
‘Geri’ a sculpture of a man crouching in Peace Park

“Geri” by local artist James Stewart at Peace Park between the Village and Upper Village. PHOTO JUSTA JESKOVA

Under The Bridges

Think . . . the opposite of that Red Hot Chili Peppers song. Under the bridges in Whistler is a place where the spirit of Whistler is spilled onto the walls, bringing light to an area you would least expect to find it.

Lorimer Bridge

Chat with any longtime local and this is likely the first mural they’ll point you towards, as the mural was completed in 2007 by the beloved Chili Thom alongside Stan Matwychuk and Devin White. Chili Thom passed away in 2016, but his legend holds strong in Whistler as his art seems to depict every mood of the Coast Mountains perhaps more accurately than any other artist from the area. Head over to the Lorimer Bridge underpass to see this mural which acts as much as a piece of history as it is a work of timeless art.

Woman walking by the Chili Thom Mural in Whistler

Vibrant colours that match the landscape. PHOTO JUSTA JESKOVA

Creekside Underpass

The Creekside Underpass Mural, completed in the fall of 2018 by Jessa Gilbert is certainly a sight to see. A conceptualized depiction of the Coast Mountains, Gilbert’s shapes and colours capture the feeling of the mountains in so many different ways combined into one beautiful mural. Snow-capped peaks, alpenglow, shifting clouds; the mural almost seems as though it is moving as you look at it. A piece of art that greatly upstages its setting, this one is something you don’t want to miss.

INSIDER TIP: Find more murals under the Blackcomb Way Bridge, along the Valley Trail, behind the Whistler Museum and at the Whistler Skate Park.
Kris Kupsky Mural at the Whistler Museum

Kris Kupsky mural at the Whistler Museum. PHOTO NIKKEY DAWN

Over a Cup of Coffee

Whistler is defined by its abundance of riches in the form of snow, mountains, beautiful landscapes, and the creative minds who are inspired by the outdoors. Like much of the art we have profiled, that creativity seems to spill into unexpected places – our final spot is a bit more “expected” but still a place you may not always be looking – the coffee shops.

You may have been to a particular shop 20 times but in your morning haze, never looked around to see the local art smattering the walls, on the shelves, and in between the pages of a local publication. It’s a shame that the art seems to blend in so well, as it might be one of the best gifts you can bring home to a loved one, or to hang on your own wall.

Mount Currie Coffee Co.

The mountain might be in the neighboring town of Pemberton, but its presence has left its mark on the entire Sea to Sky – heck, they even named a coffee shop after it.

In the Whistler location, you’ll find art in plenty of different forms – unique custom hats, mugs, some of the best latte art in town, and local artists’ paintings for sale on the walls. One of the most popular brands in town, Mount Currie Coffee Co. trucker hats and mugs have always been a favourite, with their classic design depicting the towering peak of Mount Currie.

Barista making a coffee

A coffee shop steeped in mountain culture. PHOTO KARINA ERHARDT

To go with their custom merchandise, Mount Currie always seems to have a steady flow of artists welcomed in to display their art on the walls, as well as the popular local publications such as Mountain Life Magazine with beautiful photography and writing telling the stories of the people and places that make the Coast Mountains so special.

INSIDER TIP: Drop-in at Mogul’s Coffee House, Blenz Coffee, Gone Village Eatery and Thunderbird Cafe for more art alongside your java.

Find it on a self-guided tour, check out some Fall for Arts programming, or stumble upon it out of the blue – the public art in Whistler is something you don’t want to miss. The draw of the natural spaces in the valley has an undeniable gravitational pull, but when your legs are tired, and you need a different kind of inspiration, take a closer look at what’s around you – you might just find art in the most unexpected places.

Feeling inspired to get to Whistler this fall? Head over Whistler.com for a full rundown on the arts in Whistler, and take advantage of the Cultural Pass & lodging offer available on now until November 28.

Ben Osborne

Ben Osborne

Born and raised in Burlington, Vermont, Ben always had his eyes on the bigger mountains out west. When an opportunity to study in Vancouver became reality, he packed up his car and never looked back. Listening perhaps too closely to the old adage “Do what you love”, Ben spent his University years studying Geography and skipping perhaps too many classes to enjoy Whistler, completely consumed by the mountains. Today, things haven’t changed one bit, as he spends his time either in the mountains, on the coast, or writing about the people and places that inspire him.

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