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Art on the Lake floats into third year with expanded format

The Alta Lake event is set for Aug. 11 and 12 with art, live painting, and music on the water

Out of all the unusual sights at last year’s Art on the Lake event—from giant unicorn floaties to people precariously dancing on kayaks—one stood out for organizers. 

“I’ve never seen so many dogs on paddleboards,” says Mo Douglas, executive director of Arts Whistler.

So, for the 2022 installation, they decided to accommodate those paddling pooches with a doggy dock—and their own event. 

WAG.Woof.Water will take place on Friday, Aug. 12 giving dogs the opportunity to jump off a dock—and raise some money for WAG. 

“That came from observing [so many dogs]—and being able to stretch Art on the Lake to two days,” Douglas adds. 

What started as a way for Arts Whistler to host a safe, distanced, outdoor event during the height of the pandemic in summer 2020 has become a much-loved summer staple heading into its third year. This year, Art on the Lake is set to take place on Aug. 11 and 12 on Alta Lake—weather delay dates are earmarked for Aug. 18 and 19 or Aug. 25 and 26—with a floating art gallery showcasing more than 30 Sea to Sky artists, as well as 12 local bands, nine artists live painting, dance performances, family-friendly events and a few surprises. 

“The first year we had to be really cautious about social distancing,” says Suzanne Gibson, program team lead for Art on the Lake. “This year, we’re able to have more hands-on elements.” 

That includes long-time Whistler artist Andrea Mueller hosting a paint-by-numbers mural and a pirate ship made for kids to colour. 

But much of the action will include local bands—from Introduce Wolves rocking out on a floating barge to Foxy Moron and Vinyl Ritchie’s DJ dock set—and artists live painting. 

Painter and sculptor Sarah McDonald plans to bring a few pieces to work on simultaneously when she sets up on the dock at Wayside Park on Aug. 12. 

Her vibrant and textured pieces feature several layers of paint to create a three-dimensional effect. 

“I’ll probably do three or four paintings at a time,” McDonald says. “When one layer is drying, I’ll work on another … On nice, hot days, they dry pretty quick.”

While she calls Squamish home these days, McDonald lived in Whistler for several years and drew unique inspiration for a series from a much-loved local restaurant. 

“I’m a sushi maniac,” she says. “That’s been my No. 1 food since I was five. I lived in Whistler from 2003 until 2010 and Sushi Village was our go-to place for any celebration or big event.” 

Not only has she made a sushi sculpture, but also the first pieces purchased at a recent Coast Mountain Brewing exhibit were her paintings of dinner at Sushi Village. 

More recently, though, she’s been drawn to the colourful wildflowers finally emerging in the mountains. 

“I tend to go through different stages,” she says. “I don’t even know what to paint for Art on the Lake. They’ve chosen my Sushi Village painting [to be displayed] but I’m enjoying wildflowers right now.”

In addition to McDonald, there are several other emerging artists set to paint live at the event, which will probably be a little different than the studios—or stages, in the case of the musicians—they’re used to.

“We told the artists to bring bathing suits if the weather is hot—to jump in and have a swim during breaks,” Gibson says.

While those artists are primarily Sea to Sky locals, so too are the participants. Arts Whistler says it’s happy to welcome visitors, but the Thursday and Friday dates were chosen to keep congestion down at local parks.

To that end, a shuttle will be running from Blackcomb Way to bring participants—and their packed-down inflatable vessels—to the lake. You can also rent boats at Backroads at Wayside Park and Whistler Eco-Tours at Lakeside Park. (Everyone, of course, is encouraged to practice boat safety.)

Finally, keep an eye out 48 hours ahead of time to find out whether Mother Nature will cooperate or the dates will be changed. 

Otherwise, “be prepared to be on a boat for a while,” Douglas says. “Safety first: bring lots of water, sunscreen and that sort of thing.”

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