Whistler and wildlife go hand in hand, but when considering the resort community’s most iconic animal residents, it’s usually the bears, eagles and marmots that people think of first.
That’s why Vancouver artist and graphic designer Maxine Wolodko wanted to dig a little deeper when coming up with a subject for her winning design selected by the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) to grace street banners around the community this winter.
Entitled “Birds of Winter,” the banners showcase four birds that are common to Whistler at this time of year: a sparrow, a black-capped chickadee, a grey jay (colloquially known as a whiskey jack), and a Stellar’s jay.
Wolodko says the experience of spotting and painting Whistler’s birds was an educational one that she’s hopeful extends to the public taking in her work.
“I’m not an avid birder, except as it relates to my art,” says Wolodko. “I love it when I see something new and have to figure out what that bird is.”
Whistler is home to some 270 bird species, and despite their ubiquity, Wolodko finds that our feathered friends are quick to fade into the background for most casual onlookers.
“As we go about our busy lives, they’re just sort of there,” she says. “I do like to take the time just to be in the park and be silent in the background and see what comes out and spend some time watching them. Then I think going home and painting them is a way for me to spend more time with them instead of being out there. Then if someone else looks at the artwork and gets the same feeling, that’s just a bonus.”
The boldly coloured work was selected by a jury made up of municipal staffers, as well as representatives of Arts Whistler and the Audain Art Museum. The RMOW’s parks manager Martine Pardoe said it was in part the simplicity and elegance of the design that ultimately won the committee over.
“It was something we hadn’t seen before, those four birds as a piece, at least in recent memory. And there’s something just about the way the birds are drawn that is really sweet and innocent,” he tells Pique. “They’re the little birds, not the usual eagle or osprey or a more significant bird that we sometimes see. They’re birds that still make up a lot of our character and make you look with a little more detail at things.”
Whistler’s street banner program has been around since the late ‘90s, and the designs have evolved both in quality and creativity, Pardoe notes.
“They’ve [grown] more professional. Just the topics and the composition have moved beyond the basics of mountains and bears and trees and that type of thing,” he says.
“We have had bear banners, we’ve got lots of bear art, and people love the bears, but it’s nice to have something different.”
Typically, the RMOW looks for a design that reflects “the landscape, character, activities and plants of Whistler,” and if it has some sort of educational component, even better. Artists are also encouraged to favour bold designs and bright colours over photography and text, particularly in the winter, to help catch people’s eye.
Wolodko’s banners were fully installed on Dec. 13 on streetlight posts throughout the village, Creekside and Meadow Park.
Each banner series is displayed for two seasons before being sold to the public, with sales revenue contributing to future public art projects.
The RMOW will issue a call for artists next month for the summer 2022 banners. Learn more at whistler.ca/banners.