Culture Days comes to Whistler this weekend 

Festival offers chance for a behind-the-scenes look at local artists

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Culture Days is set to run this weekend in Whistler promising to offer a unique chance to see artists at work as well as plenty of opportunities for participation as well.

The annual nationwide event aims to offer residents a peek into the behind-the-scenes world of local artists. Originating in Quebec in 2007, the festival spread across the country before making its way to Whistler this weekend.

"We wanted events where people could either participate and do something, or it's so visually inspiring that they learn from it," says Yasmin Haufschild, director of special events and product development at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, which has embraced the festival.

The Fairmont will be offering a chance for everyone to see how the unique sugar sculptures they make come to life. But it's a spectator event only.

"Something like sugar art is not something someone can necessarily do because you're dealing with a lot of heat. [You use] a torch, basically, to heat the sugar to a point where you can mold it into something," said Haufschild.

Neat? Definitely. Onlookers can watch the hotel's pastry chef, Laurent Bernard, work his magic to transform the sticky sweet stuff into mountains, flowers, or whatever shape he fancies at a demonstration on Sunday, Sept. 30. "It's a very unique art form," Haufschild added. "He's so talented. He can do pretty much anything."

The three-day festival also includes an array of more conventional art events. After national organizers reached out to local venues late this summer, the Fairmont, Mountain Galleries and Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre worked to put together a series of events ranging from a poetry workshop and competition to an interactive session with the African tongue drum and artist demonstrations at the Farmers' Market. Organizers also decided to incorporate the Spirit Within Festival (Sept. 28 – 30 at the cultural centre) into the event.

"[The festival's purpose] is to highlight to the local community what culture is available on their doorstep," said Liz Ash, manager at Mountain Galleries. "Whistler is such a sports-oriented town — skiing and biking and hiking — but really, in the past few years, it's up and coming for its arts and culture. Mountain Galleries, a lot of galleries in town and the arts council, they're all doing their best to try and make it a town that's well-known for its arts and culture."

To that end, Whistler artists like Joan Baron will volunteer their time to give the scene a boost. Baron will offer a session on how to paint her signature whimsical bears in motion. "It kind of ties in really well with Whistler and it being bear country, so to speak," Ash added. "That's one I'm looking forward to."

Other highlights include a Flashmob, courtesy of the Vibe Dance Centre, an interactive weaving demonstration of both contemporary and traditional First Nations' techniques, and an Artwalk tour of the Upper Village.

"A lot of the events and main activities go on in the main village," Ash said. "We kind of get forgotten about (in the Upper Village). It's only a short walk from the main town and it's a beautiful area. We have a lot of things up here to come and enjoy."

Culture Days runs from Sept. 28 to 30 at various venues. For more information, visit www.culturedays.ca.

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