Artist in residence program brings talent close to home 

Two-week pilot workshop in August lays ground for Whistler's first artist in residence program

Photo by Nicole Fitzgerald
  • Photo by Nicole Fitzgerald

It’s everybody’s dream: lakefront property stretching out into still waters reflecting alpenglow and snow-dressed mountains bordered by a thick collar of evergreen trees. So perfect, the scene set on Alta Lake could be a painting, a photograph, or at least the inspiration behind one.

The dream will become a reality with a Chaplainville heritage house on Alta Lake soon to become the home of Whistler’s first artist in residence program – a place opening doors to all creative minds.

With rundown buildings and minimal funding in place, the Whistler Arts Council and Resort Municipality of Whistler initiative will first lay the foundations of the artist in residence concept with a two-week pilot program. This August, Whistler will invite people from across the province to participate in one-to-three-day workshops facilitated by professional local and B.C. artists.

"As a department, we are really excited about the possibilities," said Kevin McFarland, parks and recreation planner. "We are blending culture into parks and recreation in a truly inspirational part of town. Not being car-accessible, it is remote, but still in the heart of our town."

The heritage home currently is unable to meet the demands of artistic endeavours such as glass-blowing or pottery spinning, and therefore this year’s program focuses on easy-set up practices. Acrylic and oil painting and First Nations art – basket weaving or drum making and painting – are being looked at for this season.

In years to come other artists, such as actors, musicians and photographers, will find a home in the two-storey lodging. Bedrooms will be refurbished into artist living quarters and the kitchen and bathroom facilities, although working now, will be overhauled.

"The point is people are living and working in one spot," said Jenny Angus, Whistler Arts Council board member. "That is why we were interested in a house with a living space in it, but we can’t house teachers yet. The property is not ready for living."

The property and its two lodgings are part of Alta Lake Park. A kayak outfitter currently leases the second building at the south end of the park. The developers of the Stonebridge subdivision gave the lands and structures to the RMOW as part of the company’s rezoning. The buildings require a lot of work: windows are boarded up. One wharf is walkable, the other is beginning to sink under the water’s surface. Despite the shabby grounds, the views of Blackcomb Mountain and the length of Alta Lake leave plenty of room for the imagination to roam.

The municipality is looking at other potential artist-in-residence sites, including Hillman Lodge on Nita Lake.

"We’d like to take advantage of the heritage house there and the spectacular location overlooking Nita Lake," McFarland said. "Hillman Lodge is connected to the train station by virtue of the Valley Trail. In the long term, we could connect those two new park sites with artist-in-resident programs in each of them."

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