Audain Art Museum’s chief curator moves on 

Darrin Martens, the museum’s first curator, has accepted a new job in Ontario

click to enlarge CATHRYN ATKINSON/ FILE PHOTO - Darrin Martens is leaving his role as the Audain Art Museum's chief curator.
  • Cathryn Atkinson/ file photo
  • Darrin Martens is leaving his role as the Audain Art Museum's chief curator.

There are more changes coming to the Audain Art Museum.

Just days after the institution’s new director, Curtis Collins, starts on May 1, chief curator Darrin Martens will finish his last day. Martens recently accepted a job at the Peel Art Gallery Museum + Archives in Brampton, Ont. as senior curator.

“(The timing is) purely coincidental,” Martens says. “But it does provide an opportunity for Curtis when he comes in (to be) able to immediately put someone in place that shares his vision of the institution moving forward.”

However, Martens' impact as the museum’s first—and, so far, only—curator will still be felt for a few more years. “I have the first five years of the curatorial program developed,” he says. “There’s another year or two of that. I think, in the fourth and fifth year, that’s going to be a wonderful opportunity to look back and say what’s really resonated with the various communities at the Audain.”

For his part, Martens says his favourite special exhibits were Stone and Sky: Canada’s Mountain Landscape last year and the current exhibit, Beau Dick: Revolutionary Spirit.

“Personally, the biggest thing I can take away is that I’ve had the chance to work with some incredible artists, as well as substantial exhibitions for the institution,” he says. “Those two projects for me are two of the largest exhibitions I’ve ever organized.”

Martens started his job a year before the museum opened in spring 2016. Since then, he’s helped the institution become more established in the community. “What I’ve observed now is our members, volunteers and community really is starting to own the Audain, which, for any institution is critical: it’s their institution. Watching that grow and blossom has been great. The institution has a great foundation on which to build.”

He sees the museum as emerging out of its infancy and, going forward, believes it will be able to navigate natural growing pains. “The institution is very much a toddler,” he adds. “There are ebbs and flows of attendance, sponsorship, support and staffing. One of the most important challenges the institution faces—and I think it will continue to address—is defining itself in its various communities.”

One of the fondest memories he says he’ll take away from his time in Whistler is watching how excited volunteer docents would get ahead of a new special exhibit. “(It would) reach a fever pitch before we (opened) and I’m able to take them into our temporary space. With every exhibition, we tend to transform each space into something very different.”

On top of that, it’s been gratifying to hear feedback from the community, he adds. “I’ve heard a number of times—and it really hits home—I’m hearing, ‘I can’t believe this is here in Whistler. We’re so lucky to have this and thank you for bringing this here.’”

Martens' last day will be Friday, May 4.

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