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"The coastline at Sooke, B.C."
The coastline at Sooke, B.C. Photo Courtesy Tourism Vancouver Island.
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"Mile After Mile"
Yvette Moore, "Mile After Mile," acrylic on canvas.
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"Yvette Moore Gallery"
Outside the Yvette Moore Gallery in Moose Jaw.
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A view south of the beach in Winnipeg Beach, Manitoba. Photo Courtesy Linda Vermeulen.
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"Mermaid's Kiss Gallery"
Outside the Mermaid's Kiss Gallery in Gimli, Manitoba.
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"South Western Saskatchewan"
South Western Saskatchewan near Grasslands National Park. Photo Courtesy Tourism Saskatchewan / Douglas E. Walker.
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Sonny Assu, "iPotlatch Ego," at the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba.
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"Waterton Lakes National Park"
The Highway near Waterton Lakes National Park. Photo Courtesy Travel Alberta.
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"The Leighton Centre"
The Leighton Centre, near Millarville outside Calgary.
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Touchstones (at left) in Nelson, B.C.
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"The coastline at Sooke, B.C."
The coastline at Sooke, B.C. Photo Courtesy Tourism Vancouver Island.
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"Highway 22 on the Cowboy Trail"
Highway 22 on the Cowboy Trail, south of Longview. Photo Courtesy Travel Alberta.
Find a summer's worth of great gallery destinations, from Sooke to Winnipeg Beach.
By Jill Sawyer
Summer is road trip season, a time to explore beyond urban borders and discover destinations further off the beaten path. There are cultural gems in all corners of the western provinces, many of them maintained by gallerists passionate about their regions and their hometowns. Here is a short list of farther flung galleries and studio spaces that put road trippers in touch with local culture.
A very short drive northwest of Victoria, along the scenic west coast of Vancouver Island, the towns of Metchosin and Sooke have long been magnets for arts and culture. Artists have been drawn to the slower pace of the Island, and the sheer beauty of a studio surrounded by rainforest. One of the highlights of the region’s summer cultural calendar is theStinking Fish Studio Tour July 28 to August 6, which winds its way through the artists’ studios of East Sooke and Metchosin. More than 20 artists are featured on the Tour, including potters, artisanal jewellery-makers, textile artists, metalworkers, wood turners, painters, photographers and printmakers. A bi-annual event (the Fall tour gets underway at the end of November), artists are peer-juried before acceptance, and this is a true studio tour — visitors will see inside working artists’ studios. While the Tour is on, artists’ locations will be well-marked with signage and the Tour’s fish logo. Find more information atwww.stinkingfishstudiotour.com
One of the most iconic spots in the region is the popular Sooke Harbour House, which maintains its own art gallery and collection of work by Vancouver Island artists and artisans. Named one of the top five hotels in North America byTravel & Leisure Magazine in 2006, the inn’s gallery represents more than 60 artists. According to innkeeper Frederique Philip, most of the artists are chosen for a sensibility that fits with the inn’s mandate for representing the best of Vancouver Island. FIND IT: Drive northwest out of Victoria on Highway 1 and west on Sooke Road,
On the other side of the province, deep in the Kootenay region, which is marked by the wooded peaks of the Selkirk mountain range, and a stretch of cold, clear lakes, the city of Nelson has also long been a draw for artists. Its own unique beauty can be seen in its exquisitely maintained heritage homes and commercial buildings, which cover the hill overlooking the narrow west arm of Kootenay Lake. Late last year, the city re-opened Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History, in the heritage stone former post-office building. Originally opened in 1955 in a much smaller space, the centre holds a history museum and art gallery, and hosts public readings, talks, and other events. A close connection with the students and faculty of the local Kootenay School of the Arts gives the centre access to shows of regular art and artisan work, and this summer the gallery will open River of Memory, a traveling multi-media exhibition by curator Bill Layman on the human and natural history of the Columbia River. FIND IT: From Vernon, drive east on Highway 6 to Cherryville, then continue south on 6 to Highway 3A, which travels east to Nelson.
Up the road and through the Monashee mountain range in the direction of Vernon, B.C., the tiny town of Cherryville has its own reason to celebrate the arts. A vibrant arts community tucked into the mountains west of the Arrow Lakes region, the town hosts the Cherryville Arts Festival August 11 and 12, and also opens its small artisan shop through the summer. The shop is home to local work including pottery, fibre arts, jewellery and art glass.
West of Calgary, and south on Highway 22 (also known as the Cowboy Trail), the foothills stretch west to the peaks of the Rockies, and the region is home to jewelers and silversmiths, potters and saddlemakers. Commanding a particularly striking view is the Leighton Art Centrejust outside the hamlet of Millarville off Highway 22. The historic home of painter A.C. Leighton, the Centre sits on 80 acres of foothills landscape, now home to regular art classes for adults and children, as well as art camps and special events. This summer, the Centre will host A Sense of Place, a Society of Canadian Artists juried show, May 12 to July 3. And June 3 marks Leighton’s Clothesline Sale, with the work of more than 70 Alberta artists pinned to clotheslines for sale, as well as music, kids’ events and artists’ demonstrations — it’s a particularly popular event in picnic-worthy weather.
Further south on 22, in the western town of Black Diamond, the Terra Cotta Gallery provides a snapshot of the art and artisan work being done in the foothills region. The Gallery carries blown and sculpted glass, pottery, painting, sculpture and jewellery, and hosts regular exhibitions. From Highway 22, drive east to Highway 2 and south to Nanton, a small grid of streets with preserved heritage buildings that is home to the Antique and Art Walk of Alberta, a selection of artisan shops and stores specializing in western and prairie antiques. FIND IT: From Calgary drive south on Highway 2 then west on Spruce Meadows Trail to Highway 22 then south on Highway 773 to the Leighton Centre (watch for signs). Return to Highway 22 then follow south to Black Diamond, east of Highway 22 on Highway 7 to Highway 2 then south on 2 to Nanton and Lethbridge.
Further south on Highway 2, the city of Lethbridge is an unlikely centre for fine contemporary art in Canada, but it has become a magnet for high-calibre touring shows, artist residencies, and solo exhibitions. Part of this is attributed to the fine art department at the University of Lethbridge, which has been temporary home to some of the province’s, and the country’s finest contemporary artists, including Janet Cardiff, George Bures Miller, and David Hoffos. The University’s gallery hosts regular exhibitions, many of them with work from the school’s spectacular and little-seen permanent collection. On the campus grounds, the Papokan Sculpture Garden features work by artists including John McEwan, Clay Ellis and Sorel Etrog. Another elegant but unexpected space can be found in the offices of Savill Group Architecture. The Trianon Gallery (with a smaller space on another floor, the Petit Trianon), which has a regular schedule of contemporary art exhibitions, is maintained by local architect John Savill. Downtown Lethbridge is home to the Southern Alberta Art Gallery, a small but vibrant space on two levels that continues to build and attract the best in contemporary art exhibitions. SAAG’s summer schedule includes installation artist Karen Tam’s Orientally Yours through June 10, a photography show, Inhabiting, by Montreal-based artist Isabelle Hayeur, June 28 to September 26, andPlaces & Spaces: Landscapes from the Buchanan Collection June 28 to September 23. It includes a remarkable collection of art from the city of Lethbridge collection, including work by Arthur Lismer, A.J. Casson, David Milne and Toni Onley.
For a different day and a different drive, the southeastern Alberta city of Medicine Hat is notable for its heat, its enormous teepee (the world’s largest) and its clay. Home of the historic commercial potteries Medalta and Hycroft, the region’s rich claybanks have drawn ceramic artists for 100 years. Today, the region’s history and culture have been incorporated into a destination gallery, museum and working pottery called the Clay Industries National Historic District. Home to the Medalta International Artists in Residence Program, directed by acclaimed ceramist Les Manning, the centre is open daily for tours. In June, public programming includes firing demonstrations, talks, and a series of exhibitions of contemporary ceramics from the residency program. Also in Medicine Hat, the recently opened Esplanade Arts Centre houses a gallery with regularly scheduled temporary exhibitions. FIND IT: From Calgary drive three hours southeast on Highway 1.
When he opened his gallery in remote Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, Bill Shurniak attracted a lot of buzz. An inveterate art collector who had traveled the globe amassing a substantial collection, he decided to bring the work back to his hometown, a dot on the map on Highway 2 south of Moose Jaw. Today, the Shurniak Art Gallery is kept busy with revolving exhibitions from a collection that includes work by international artists, and by Canadians including A.Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer, Allen Sapp, and many others. Assiniboia is on a scenic loop drive southwest of Regina that takes in a few cultural stops along the way. Driving due west of Regina, about 45 minutes away is the pretty prairie city of Moose Jaw, which despite a devastating recent fire that swept through many of its historic commercial buildings, maintains its heritage charm with stone architecture and a beautiful city park.
Moose Jaw is also home to the Yvette Moore Gallery, set in one such historic space and devoted to Moore’s own work. Known for her illustrative acrylic portraits of prairie and country life, Moore’s work is available at the gallery in original and limited edition print. Overlooking Crescent Park downtown, the Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery shows regular temporary exhibitions, and is home to an artist-in-residence program. The early part of the summer features an exhibition by Saskatchewan-based mixed media artist Brian Ring. West from Moose Jaw on Highway 1, in the city of Swift Current you’ll find another local public gallery with a focus on western artists. The Art Gallery of Swift Current is one of a selection of small galleries in the prairie provinces and interior B.C. that share traveling exhibitions, bringing the work of lesser-known regional artists to a much wider audience. This summer, Swift Current will host the touring show Vestiges, by Manitoba-based artist Shirley Brown. FIND IT: From Regina, drive west on Highway 1 to Moose Jaw and Swift Current, then south from Swift Current on Highway 4, east on Highway 13 to Assiniboia, then north again to Moose Jaw on Highway 2.
A province known for its thousands of lakes, Manitoba has an abundance of reasons to go for a drive outside the cities, not the least of which is a concentration of artists and artisans who have made the Interlake district north of Winnipeg home for the same reasons they’re drawn to Vancouver Island and the interior of B.C. Clustered around the southwestern tip of Lake Winnipeg, opposite the famous Grand Beach, a group of these artists gets together every year to host The Wave Artist Tour, which will run twice during the summer — June 9 and 10 and September 1 and 2.
Organized by the Winnipeg Beach Art & Culture Co-op, The Wave is a circuit of more than 30 galleries and artists’ studios around the towns of Gimli and Winnipeg Beach. Painters, potters, fibre artists, sculptors, jewelers, and artists working in most other genres participate, each one flying a blue wave logo to guide visitors through the Tour. Along the way, and throughout the busy summer months, small local galleries can be found with a variety of local and national work on exhibition.
In Gimli, the Mermaid’s Kiss Gallery carries work by artists including Terry Lacosse, premier Manitoba glass artist Ione Thorkelson, and works from the estate of painter Kenneth Gordon. In neighbouring Winnipeg Beach, the Fishfly Gallery shows work by local and prairie artisans in fibre, ceramics, and glass. FIND IT: From Winnipeg, drive north on Highway 8 to Lake Winnipeg and the Interlake towns of Gimli and Winnipeg Beach.
For another day’s drive, west of Winnipeg on Highway 1, the city of Brandon is home to the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, an important stop for touring contemporary art exhibitions and a generator of highly regarded curated shows of local and regional artists. This summer, the Gallery features a show called Do Not Park Bicycles May 3 to June 9, a focus on the bicycle as an alternative means of transportation, with work by Aboriginal and Metis artists from Canada and the United States. From July 5 to August 18, the Gallery will show ,i>Shadow Princesses by Deborah Forbes, a painter based in Medicine Hat whose inspiration for her work on the image of the princess comes from the Spanish portraitist Diego Velazquez. The small but vibrant Brandon University also houses several main and offshoot galleries, each with a revolving roster of public exhibitions and programming, including the recently opened Glen P. Sutherland Gallery of Art. FIND IT: From Winnipeg, drive due west on Highway 1.