Opening an art gallery in Whistler Village these days seems like a daunting undertaking. Commercial rents are not cheap and with at least eight other retail galleries in the village, not including those in Function Junction, private studio showrooms, and galleries in neighbouring towns, the scene is flush with competition.
Despite the odds, a new gallery is pulling up a chair to the Whistler art scenes table.
The recent opening of The Path, a purveyor of fine Northwest Coastal aboriginal artworks and jewelry and in-house framing studio also marks the return of owner/operator Britt German to the Whistler gallery fold.
An indefatigable art lover and former manager of Black Tusk Gallery, another Whistler gallery specializing in native artwork, it doesnt take long to understand that German has enough passion in her little finger to silence any who might dissuade her new gallery initiative.
Brought up in Ontario in a family of ski enthusiasts, German headed to Whistler in the late 1980s after high school to live the ski-bum lifestyle for a few years. She tore herself away and returned to Ontario to go to post secondary school, graduating from the University of Toronto in 1996 with a double major in art history and religious studies, before heading back out to Whistler again.
"Ive always been interested in spirituality and how people express the spirit world in the material plane," German said, describing her own draw to native artwork.
Her keen interest and educational expertise were a natural fit with Black Tusk Gallery, where she began working in 2001. German rose to the position of manager and stayed with Black Tusk through an ownership change and move from Main Street to the Whistler Village Resorts gallery row in Jan. 2004, but soon after made the decision to go her own way.
Approximately one year of business proposals and financing meetings later, her plans have manifested into The Path. The gallery sits just a stones throw down Main Street from the original Black Tusk, in the space previously occupied by another art gallery and an Internet cafe.
Without a national or provincially funded public art institution, gallery owners in Whistler are in a position to assume a greater role in educating and cultivating art appreciation for the Whistler community. Its a position German is well aware of and is excited to define. She confirmed she will resume the informal educational talks she presented twice a week while at Black Tusk and was recognized for by staff at the Whistler Museum.
German said she is also excited about The Paths role in discovering and representing new artists. She has plans to travel to remote areas around Prince Rupert, Bella Coola and Bella Bella as well as other B.C. locales in search of new talent.
"Ive been very happy and successful in dealing with the artists on a personal level," she said, "Ill go anywhere."
Of course, all the passion in the world doesnt pay the bills, and German is aware that running The Path will be a challenging endeavour. But she is fiercely determined to make the gallery work and live her dream.
"Its like mountain climbing," she mused. "You plan your route and you aim for the crux moves. If you aim for nothing, you get nothing."