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ART in a heART brings two creative communities together

Squamish artists show off their work at The Gallery in Whistler from Feb. 2 to 23
Grace Laverdieres' painting Autumn Sunset is part of the ART in a heART exhibit at the Maury Young Art Centre this month.

Celebrating Valentine's Day doesn't always mean wine, chocolate, and candlelight dinners.

The last two years, Visuals—Squamish Valley Artists has opted to explore the love of art for their February exhibit at the Maury Young Arts Centre.

"Last year, our show was called For the Love of Art," says Elena Whitman, vice chair of the Squamish Arts Council, the organization Visuals runs under. "It always happens around Feb. 14, so there's kind of that vibe, 'love is in the air.' But we wanted to add an artistic angle to that."

To that end, the theme of this year's show, running from Feb. 2 to 23, is ART in a heART.

"[It's about] love for the arts, but it all comes from your heart," Whitman says. "We wanted our artists to present what kind of art inspires them."

Around 18 artists submitted two pieces of work each showcasing inspiration that ranges from mountain landscapes to ocean scenes, animals, and wildflowers.

"There's lots of scenery and landscapes, but ... one artist made an amazing jacket," Whitman says.

Participating artists include Angela Muellers, Lenny Rubenovitch, Toby Jaxon, and Marcelle Armatage, to name just a few that Whistlerites might recognize.

"There's so much crossover [in the Sea to Sky corridor]," says Charmaine Carpenter, senior program and event coordinator at Arts Whistler, which is hosting the show. "Quite a few of the artists, I've seen their work before in our gallery. It's great we can host them again."

The exhibit is a valuable way for Squamish artists to reach new audiences, Whitman adds. After the Whistler show a few years ago, a man visiting from a Scandinavian country contacted one of the exhibiting artists who had showcased pieces featuring whimsical houses and she ended up with 40 commissions.

"Everything is for sale," Whitman says. "That was one of the basic criteria; I wanted everybody to sell. You don't have a lot of opportunity to exhibit in Whistler as a Squamish artist. It's a unique opportunity and I wanted artists to get their names out."

Strong collaboration between all corridor communities is valuable, Carpenter says.

"I think it's great that all the arts councils from the Sea to Sky all work together," she says. "It's great for all the groups and organizations to be able to show their work outside their small community and broaden their audience a little bit."

For its part, the Squamish Arts Council has been inspired by Arts Whistler's events like the Anonymous Art Show and ArtWalk, says Whitman.

"Squamish is a smaller [arts] community than Whistler," she says. "We would love to get as many galleries as you guys have. Unfortunately, we don't have a single, official gallery. There are spaces we can exhibit around Squamish, but we'd love to have more space devoted to exhibit space in Squamish."

In the meantime, the group is celebrating the opening of ART in the heART with a party on Tuesday, Feb. 11 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Maury Young Arts Centre. "We get together, show what's happening, invite friends and family," Whitman says. "We're happy to be there."