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Paddle your way to Art on the Lake… literally

Paddle, swim or float on Alta Lake while enjoying roving painters and musicians
A who’s who of the Sea to Sky’s visual arts and music scenes will be painting and performing on Alta Lake—literally—on Aug. 27 for a free, physically distanced event. Photo courtesy of Arts Whistler

With the pandemic-induced ban on large gatherings of more than 50 people, Arts Whistler had to run the concept for its newest roving art experience all the way up to B.C.’s top health official. 

“We literally had to go up as far as [provincial health officer Dr.] Bonnie Henry to get an exemption for her current event order,” explains Mo Douglas, Arts Whistler’s executive director. “We’re joking that this event is Bonnie Henry-approved!” 

Taking full advantage of the outdoor expanses the resort has to offer, Arts Whistler is inviting the community to hop on their kayak, canoe, boat or paddleboard and head on over to Alta Lake on Aug. 27 to enjoy a free, family-friendly afternoon of live music and painting from some of Whistler’s best-known creatives. 

Called Art on the Lake…literally, the event had been churning in Douglas’ mind even before the pandemic, and is modelled in part after Arts Whistler’s popular Art on the Lake workshops it has been running at the Station House for several years. 

“I always loved the idea of Art on the Lake and this year, we are going to literally put it on the lake,” Douglas says. “We saw the lake and really dug how we could build in physical distancing. We wanted to do something where, to get the full experience, you need to be on the water. I was joking that if you’re in a kayak or a canoe and you’re not two metres away, you might get hit by somebody’s paddle. It’s quite motivating to be physically distanced.” 

Attendees are asked to either bring their own watercraft, or rent one onsite from Whistler Eco Tours or Backroads Whistler. For those who prefer to stay dry, they can set up onshore in Wayside or Lakeside parks and take in the roaming performers from there. 

The south end of the lake will be transformed into a floating art exhibit featuring docks with five live painters and more than 30 artworks on display. The lineup of live painters is a who’s who of the Sea to Sky art scene, with Andrea Mueller in Wayside Park; Taka Sudo, Anna Lynch and Matt Henry at Lakeside Park; and Vanessa Stark, Ben Poechman and Dave Petko at the Alta Lake Station House. Meanwhile, David McColm, Levi Nelson, Heidi Denessen (a.k.a. Heidi the Artist), Lisa Geddes, and others, will also have their completed works featured.  

On the musical front, DJ Foxy Moron (a.k.a Ace Mackay-Smith) will be spinning at the Alta Lake Station House; Rebel Appliance, Susan Holden and Sean Rose will be playing in Wayside Park, while Bob and Charlie perform in The Stone Circle overlooking the lake. 

Producing events in Whistler for close to three decades, Douglas said there’s always something special about cultural experiences that incorporate the community’s breathtaking setting with its vibrant arts scene—and especially so in the middle of a global pandemic that has severely limited face-to-face gatherings. 

“Everybody we talk to has been so excited about this, and I think it’s for two reasons: It is a fun idea that we haven’t done before, but the fact that we can do it now, that we can do something that feels like it’s special and different and the kind of thing we just haven’t been able to, as a community, come together and do for months and months,” Douglas says. 

The new format is perhaps a sign of things to come at Arts Whistler, which has had to rethink its entire slate of future programming in the face of COVID-19. The organization is, for instance, in the process of installing a number of high-end cameras in the Maury Young Theatre to facilitate live-streamed performances and events, technology that could be tested out as early as next month for Hear and Now, Whistler’s local music festival, depending on whether an in-person festival is allowed to go ahead as planned on Sept. 19 and 20 from Whistler Olympic Plaza. 

“We’ve got some content ideas and we want to be able to flesh those out with other artists in the community. There’s more to come on that front,” Douglas says. 

Art on the Lake…literally is set for Aug. 27 from 3 to 7 p.m. For more info, visit