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The root of inspiration: ‘Trees for the Forest’

Arts Whistler’s new exhibit sees Sea to Sky artists showcasing—and helping regrow—forests around the globe  
Monkey Trees of Brazil
Laura Scarr’s Monkey Trees of Brazil is one of the works shown in Arts Whistler’s new exhibit, ‘Trees for the Forest.’

Over the past few years, local artist Laura Scarr has planted 173 trees without so much as touching the soil. 

The 34-year-old landscape artist has long been fascinated by what she calls “the beautiful and mysterious forests” of British Columbia and a few years back she decided she would have a tree planted for each one she depicted in her paintings—173 and counting. That’s how Scarr connected with One Tree Planted, a Vermont-based non-profit dedicated to reforestation efforts in 43 countries around the globe that is also the charitable recipient for Arts Whistler’s latest exhibit, “Trees for the Forest.”  

“They’re working with local populations and rebuilding forest corridors, and it was just so inspiring,” Scarr says. “It became one of the things I was most excited about with my work and I really wanted to take that a step further because I feel like it’s such an exciting and positive thing.” 

In developing the exhibit, Scarr approached eight other Sea to Sky artists she knew depicted forest landscapes in their own distinctive styles. Some, like Scarr herself, challenged themselves to look beyond the Sea to Sky to showcase forests in the areas where One Tree Planted works, including Australia, the Amazon and Romania. 

“It’s very interesting how looking at and painting different forests from other places creates a really different feeling in the work,” she says, noting how, in the first years she was in B.C. after relocating from Ontario, she saw her own work become “completely transformed” by the forest around her. 

“Opening up that inspiration to other places, it’s the same way that travelling opens you up. As soon as you bring in fresh inspiration, it really makes you appreciate the place you’re in and it makes you so much more aware of other places, too.” 

Arts Whistler executive director Mo Douglas says having such a specific theme to a show means “people come in and are blown away by the diversity of what people have done with it. That’s what makes it so fun: it is one theme but look at how different the interpretations are.” 

Featured in the exhibit alongside Scarr are Vanessa Stark, Nicole Koshure, Alyssa Bruijns, Ben Poechman, Andrea Mueller, Anna Lynch, Jessa Gilbert, and Sherry Klassen.

Typically hosting up to eight exhibits a year, Douglas says it’s not unusual for one or two of those shows to be the brainchild of a local artist like Scarr. 

“We’ve reached a nice balance of driving some stuff ourselves, filling niches, and then having artists bring their concept to the exhibition level, too,” she explains. “It’s been awesome to watch the development of this community gallery. It gets stronger every year.” 

“Trees for the Forest” opens Nov. 4 and runs at The Gallery in the Maury Young Arts Centre until Dec. 23. A portion of each artwork sold will go directly to One Tree Planted in support of reforestation in the country that inspired the work. Learn more at onetreeplanted.org