Updated November 10, 2020
The seasons may be changing but one thing is not, Whistler is bursting with must-see art and cultural experiences. From temporary exhibits like Sqātsza7 Tmicw – Father Land at the Sk̲wxwú7mesh Líl̓wat7ul Cultural Centre (SLCC) to the Permanent Collection and new temporary exhibition at the Audain Art Museum, immersing yourself in the arts is the perfect way to get to know Whistler beyond the trails this fall and winter.
There are COVID-19 measures in place at each attraction with easy to understand signage, so you can feel safe visiting these indoor gems.
Here’s what’s on, and coming up, over the fall and winter months.
Sk̲wxwú7mesh Líl̓wat7ul Cultural Centre
Sqātsza7 Tmicw – Father Land
On Display Until February 2021
Artist in residence, Ed Archie NoiseCat has come home to his father’s territory to share his art in the exhibit Sqātsza7 Tmicw – Father Land at the SLCC, and we are lucky he has. He tells the SLCC, “My work is inspired by the stories that comprise my life — the people, tricksters, tragedies and triumphs of the Indigenous experience.” A multi-disciplinary artist, his work ranges from fused glass to bronze, steel to wood and more. The amount of mediums he has mastered is mind-blowing and you can tell he has a strong intuition for when to use each one.
In the hallway leading to the exhibit, the bronze salmon of The Vanishing Run swim past you into their unknown future, while the tall, red cedar and steel carving, We are the Wolves, greets you at the door, but it’s the scream which ensnares you as soon as you enter the exhibit. In this eye-catching sculpture, a coiled black snake clutches a struggling orca in the greedy grasp of its tail, separating the whale from the foundational salmon at the sculpture’s base. There is no description for the piece in the catalogue, but my own interpretation is that it represents the plight of the Southern Resident killer whales and the increasing threat they face from the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. NoiseCat is an advocate for the Salish Sea and you can see his passion for the environment in his work.
Drawing you further into the exhibit are the eye-catching whorls and mythological beings captured in a series of fused glass pieces. Towards the back, the regal Salmon King holds on to the precious fish while to the right, Eagle Sun glows from within, and the colourful frogs anchor the display boxes, waiting to tell you a story. Watching over it all is the strong, maternal gaze of Bear Mother Moon Mask, which grounds the room.
Look out for the thunderbird, a big source of inspiration for NoiseCat, as it’s well represented throughout the mediums.
This exhibit feels alive; a portal to a world beyond the museum walls and into the stories that are as inseparable from the landscape, as trees are from the soil.
NoiseCat is also currently working on a twenty-foot cedar pole with Lil’wat apprentice Qawam Redmond Andrews that will be raised in the Great Hall later this winter. NoiseCat tells the SLCC, “Growing up, there weren’t any Lil’wat carvers to study, so I looked to other Nations’ artists to learn how to carve. Now, I’ve accidentally filled a void that’s been lacking for a long time, as I am a Lil’wat master carver.”
“The two main characters of the piece are the thunderbird and bear dancer separated by a lightning bolt. There will be a Spider Woman Mask that will be carved in wood (possibly moulded and cast in glass) mounted on the thunderbird descending from the heavens that represent the Women’s Warrior Song that was given to my aunty, Sawt Martina Pierre, a strong leader amongst my people, in a dream. In the chest of the thunderbird, there’s a space to put a portrait of my great grandfather, N’kasusa7 Harry Peters, who was a great Chief.”
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More to See at the SLCC
There are six regalia outfits on display in the Great Hall designed and constructed by SLCC Ambassador Sutikem Bikadi. When I visited, she was in the process of applying the adornments and I caught up with her while she was in the midst of a precision demanding task, cutting the fringe.
The six pieces have taken her three years to construct. She thinks that if it were just her and the garments that they could be made in a matter of months, but she loves being able to interact with the guests and share her process. They are also worn by the Spo7ez Performance Group, the SLCC’s newly formalized and official in-house performance team.
What’s Coming Up:
First Nations Winter Feast
For groups of 30 – 50 people, the SLCC is hosting nights of cultural sharing over a feast of indigenous flavours, with regalia, storytelling, music and dance.
Luncheon: SPO7EZ TL’A7ÁSHN
Sunday, November 14
Part of Cornucopia 2020, the SLCC will be hosting a four-course plated lunch in the Istken Hall. SLCC Chef Felix Breault has pulled inspiration from the songs of the Squamish Nation and Lil’wat Nation, which will be shared by the SLCC’s Cultural Performance team. Each course will also be paired with Indigenous World Wines, from the Okanagan Valley.
SLCC COVID-19 Measures: The SLCC acknowledges that Indigenous communities are more vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19 and that threats to the community could result in cultural loss. They ask that you be an ally in preserving their cultures and wear a mask. Hand sanitizer stations are placed throughout the galleries.
Audain Art Museum
The Extended Moment: Fifty Years of Collecting Photographs at the National Gallery of Canada
On Display Until October 18, 2020
Part of the 2020 Capture Photography Festival, this visiting exhibit at the Audain Art Museum showcases how photography has evolved over the last 50 years; from the technology and methods used to the social narratives they tell.
Photography has become instrumental in helping us understand the world around us, each other and ourselves. The collection includes both vernacular and press photography with collections organized by theme.
One of my favourites was the Conversations in Time Gallery; it pairs photos of the same subject matter from different time periods. This makeshift time machine leaves you dizzy, reflecting on all that’s changed, yet stayed the same. Like the way a woman can bring you into her inner world whether she’s peering out at you from a small daguerreotype print from an era of imposed modesty, or a life-sized nude, black and white portrait taken in a time of free expression.
You can’t help but think about the future of photography while walking through the exhibit, especially with the shifting world around us. One of the most famous works in this collection is Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange, taken during The Great Depression. This photo, and her series on the Dust Bowl, launched her career in the documentary photography genre because she was able to so effectively connect the world with the refugees living through “the worst man-made ecological disaster” of the time.
The Art and Science Gallery will appeal to ever-curious and analytical minds, as it’s an expedition through our attempts to understand and express both the natural world and cosmos; down to the minute details of a snowflake.
The exhibit does an outstanding job of showing how imagination and discovery have pushed and pulled photography through the ages.
The Audain Art Museum’s Permanent Collection houses the heavy hitters of Canadian art. From Bill Reid’s entrancing jade-green Dogfish Woman sculpture to Emily Carr’s moody depictions of the coastal temperate rainforest, it’s all iconic.
But, the collection doesn’t rest on the past and features recent works such as The Dance Screen / The Scream Too by James Hart and She saw her fallen clothes as charity, a homage to the missing trees by Laurie Papou.
What’s Coming Up:
Book Your Bubble – Audain Extended
The museum is offering private, guided tours outside of public hours. Knowledgeable docents will take groups of up to six people on a one-hour tour through the Permanent Collection.
RESERVOIR by Rebecca Belmore
November 26, 2020 – May 16, 2021
Works by multidisciplinary, Anishinaabekwe artist Rebecca Belmore will be coming to the Audain later this fall. She’ll be doing a nighttime performance outside on the Audain Art Museum’s meadow and creating a rock netting installation for the Tom & Teresa Gautreau Galleries. Both new works will look at the disparity between wealth and poverty in Canada, with the Sea to Sky Corridor as a focus. RESERVOIR will also include the North American premiere of her sculptural piece, Body of Water.
Tuesday Night Talks
Season two of the museum’s Tuesday Night Talks will air in the first week of January, the series chats with artists from the permanent collection over Zoom.
Audain COVID-19 Measures: Masks are required. You’ll find hand sanitizing stations throughout the museum, on either side of any door. A limited number of people are allowed in a room at one time and there are directional markers
Like its peaks, Whistler has many faces. Spend some time exploring its cultural side this season and you’re bound to fall even harder for this place.
Visit Whistler between September 1 – November 30, 2020 and receive two free Whistler Cultural passes, valued at $60, find out how on Whistler.com.