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First ArtWalk sets the stage

Organizers, businesses, artists will have clearer picture next year

The first Whistler ArtWalk – an initiative to connect the local arts and business communities – may be officially over, but it is managing to live on through new relationships and a commitment to be back for year two.

The brainchild of the Whistler Arts Council, the ArtWalk matched local artists and artisans with participating retail outlets, cafe’s and galleries to display their work throughout the month of July.

Seventeen businesses signed on to accommodate 20 artists out of approximately 50 applicants.

The venues and artists were then organized on a brochure map produced by the Arts Council.

The ArtWalk’s official launch featured artist-attended in-house receptions and live music on the Village Stroll. The events were co-ordinated with the kick off of Tourism Whistler’s first annual arts and music festival on the evening of Friday, July 9 – a cool, rainy evening that put a slight damper on the opening night events.

Weather aside, Whistler Arts Council director Doti Niedermayer said she is pleased with the outcome of the first ArtWalk.

Many venues have chosen to continue their relationships with their chosen artists. Whistler painter Sharon Jensen’s extensive collection of watercolours and canvases proved a perfect fit with the expansive wall space of the Cyberweb Internet Cafe. Pasta Lupino is continuing to showcase the enigmatic canvases of Pemberton artist Patrick Meagher, and Dean Coté’s photographs will continue to grace the walls and display windows of The Whistler Clothing Co.

Many venues such as Sushi Village, host to painter Chili Thom, and Ruby Tuesday Accessories, host to jewelry-maker Tess Klein, used the ArtWalk as an opportunity to bolster existing relationships and further promote local artists who were already exhibiting in house.

As with any debut event, Niedermayer acknowledged there were some lessons learned, specifically the disparity of enthusiasm by the host venues.

While some venues chose to treat the opening night as a customer appreciation event offering food and beverages to ArtWalkers, other venues did nothing to draw attention to their featured artists.

There was also a disparity of display space among the venues, with some offering up window space and prominent placings and others barely offering any wall space.

With no precedent, Niedermayer said it was difficult to make demands on the venues. However, with interest already expressed by other potential venues due to a clearer idea of what the event entails, Niedermayer said next summer’s ArtWalk will be able to make more specific demands.

"It’ll be ‘either you’re in or your out,’" she said. "This is what it is, this is what you get, and this is what you have to give up. To be fair, you have to have the space to show the work."

Photographer Dean Cote’s exhibit at the Whistler Clothing Co. was one of the most successful by way of display and overall sales Niedermayer noted, making the relationship a flagship for next year.

"I felt good about the whole thing," said Coté. "The feedback I got from that venue was better than any other venue I’ve exhibited in, and I’ve been all over the place in the last four years.

"The other thing that left me pleasantly surprised was the power associated with those two words ‘Art Walk.’ Regardless of any other marketing, you put ‘Art Walk’ into something and I think people get energized as a result of that."

Niedermayer said plans for next year include trying to accommodate more artists and extending the ArtWalk another month.

For more information on upcoming Arts Council events, including the second annual Whistler ArtWalk, call 604-935-8419.