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Adele Campbell Fine Art commemorates 30th anniversary

The local gallery will put on a free Art of Winter Group Exhibition beginning Nov. 24

Adele Campbell Fine Art is celebrating three decades of business in Whistler. 

Since its beginnings in 1993, the gallery and its team have been dedicated to showcasing top-flight material from all corners of the Canadian contemporary art realm. This month, Adele Campbell will mark its anniversary by hosting its 30th annual Art of Winter Group Exhibition, featuring pieces by over 40 painters and sculptors. The display, which is free to the public, opens Nov. 24 and runs throughout December. 

“This snow-inspired exhibition is a great way to usher in the winter season in Whistler and celebrate the return of the community energy we all love,” says Adele Campbell owner Elizabeth Harris. “It’s a way to celebrate the extraordinary talents of our established and emerging artists while also saying thank you to the community that has supported us along the way.” 

Adele Campbell Fine Art has been a key part of the Sea to Sky arts scene for 30 years, engaging with guests of all ages and backgrounds via special events, artist demonstrations and various monthly spotlights of certain individuals and their work. The gallery has perennially helped raise funds for other community organizations like Whistler Search and Rescue, the Kelty Dennehy Foundation, the Audain Art Museum and the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation. 

Vibe and creativity

Whistler is a destination of choice for art enthusiasts, and a relative dearth of commercial galleries in Vancouver in the past has made a way for local exhibitions to establish themselves. Adele Campbell in particular has successfully catered to Whistler’s unique demographics, including both loyal buyers and a revolving door of visiting prospective clients who may or may not be familiar with Canadian art. 

“Whistler doesn’t necessarily attract that nine-to-five corporate culture type,” Harris opines. “It does attract people who really want to make the most of their lives…and I think that just nurtures a bit more of an artistic type. There's this sort of vibe and creativity in the town that isn't just cookie-cutter ski resort [fare].” 

Many creators in Adele Campbell’s diverse roster are based in the Sea to Sky corridor or elsewhere in British Columbia, but there are others who represent every other province all the way east to Prince Edward Island. These artists tackle a range of subjects and mediums, giving Harris and her associates plenty to consider in their curating process. Adele Campbell doesn’t just focus on veteran painters and sculptors either, frequently giving up-and-comers a chance for exposure. 

“We’re always striving to promote a connection of some kind, whether it be to an experience, a landscape, or a cherished memory. Paintings evoke a feeling, a memory or may take you back to a place in time,” says Harris. “You don’t have to look far to feel a connection to this remarkable land we live in, and while many artists gain inspiration from their local surroundings, the paintings still need to resonate with people who hail from all over the globe. 

“This talent of using the majestic mountains, lapping waves, or soulful wildlife [and] the ability to capture the pure power and intimate understanding of the wilderness…is ever-present in the artists’ creations.” 

A welcoming environment

Adele Campbell has changed hands a number of times in its history. It was founded by the women whose names it now bears: Adele Engel and Paula Campbell, with Harris crediting the latter as a driving force in the early days. Michelle Kirkegaard and Tim Wake bought the gallery from Campbell in the late 1990s, though Wake as a silent partner did not actively participate in management decisions. 

Harris entered the picture around 2002, the same year Wake sold his interests to Mary Forseth—Campbell’s first employee who had been with the team since 1995. Despite having an art history background from Queen’s University, Harris did not originally envision a career for herself in the world of fine arts. The Sea to Sky changed her mind, as it has done for many. 

“As I got to know the mountain culture more and more, I realized there was this amazing art community within Whistler and I wanted to be a part of it,” Harris remembers.

Initially splitting her time between the Black Tusk Gallery, Whistler Museum and Adele Campbell, Harris carried on for roughly a decade. In 2012, she became Kirkegaard’s partner after Forseth retired, and purchased the gallery outright three years later. Now, the married mother of three is the latest figure in Adele Campbell’s line of primarily female leadership. 

It’s a far cry from where Harris and her family came from: the traditionally male-dominated automotive industry.

“I don't know if we went about it thinking: ‘oh, we’re going to be an all-woman force’, but it has happened organically over the years,” she says. “I personally knew that I did want to be in business. I think it is the type of business where you can manage being a mom and being a member of your community. 

“We've worked really hard to nurture this welcoming environment at Adele Campbell. I personally am really proud, and I think all the women before me should also be really proud. Any entrepreneurship is remarkable when you've made it succeed, and without those women mentoring me before, I don't know if I would actually be in this place.” 

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