Bears in the spotlight for new exhibit at The Gallery 

Bear Everything—Whistler Pawtraits opens on Feb. 26

click to enlarge Zoë Lomoro’s bear illustration is featured in the exhibit Bear Everything, opening on Feb. 26. IMAGE BY Zoë Lomoro
  • Zoë Lomoro’s bear illustration is featured in the exhibit Bear Everything, opening on Feb. 26. IMAGE BY Zoë Lomoro

It's no secret that Whistler is bear crazy.

Need proof? Just wait until spring rolls around and locals start sharing their "first bear of the year" sightings.

But before that, you can find a display of Whistler's love for our four-legged furry neighbours in the new exhibit Bear Everything—Whistler Pawtraits at The Gallery at the Maury Young Arts Centre, starting on Feb. 26 and running until March 23.

"The show itself is bear-inspired," says Charmaine Carpenter, senior program and event coordinator with Arts Whistler. "I put out an invite to specific artists and they're sending me bear works, which is Whistler's favourite. Everywhere you look there's bears. Why not celebrate the obvious?"

In total, over 34 artists—along with the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre (SLCC)—have submitted around 40 pieces for the show. They range from paintings to sculptures, photography to illustrations.

"I'm also working with the SLCC to get a few pieces from their collection; that's really great," Carpenter adds. "They did a call out, so we have artists from their community as well. We have a sculpture coming in, which is really exciting."

Representations of bears run the gamut. "Everyone sent in bear stuff, but some are serious representations and others are quite funny and clever. It's a nice combination of everybody's style," she says.

Artists include Andrea Mueller, David McColm, Karen Love, Kate Zessel, Levi Nelson, and Vanessa Stark, to name just a few.

Graphic designer Zoë Lomoro also created one piece that stood out. "It's very Whistler inspired," Carpenter says. "It's a bear holding a ski helmet with a biking jersey on."

Most of the pieces on display will also be for sale. Although, "some people are giving pieces off their wall. They've been willing to sacrifice their interior design," Carpenter says with a laugh. "A lot of the pieces from the SLCC are from their gift shop—masks, a drum, a talking stick, all bear-inspired. Those pieces are on sale at the SLCC and they're lending them for the show."

Arts Whistler's Krafty Kids—a weekly arts workshop for kids ages three to eight—will also have a section dedicated to their bear art. "We'll put some of their work on the wall," Carpenter says. "Everybody loves bears. When everybody sees them they get excited. I hope that comes through."

Part of the exhibit will be dedicated to educating people about bears and how to share the community with them safely. "I also reached out to the municipality and they're going to give us a bunch of bear information about how to take care of bears in our community—but also a bear pelt and skull, so people can get a better grasp of how big they really are. That will probably be part of the opening," Carpenter says.

Also part of the opening reception—set for Feb. 27 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.—will be photos from local bear expert Michael Allen that will run on screens throughout the evening.

"We've got some video and photo footage [from him]," Carpenter adds. "He's put a slideshow together for us with local bears caught on camera. It's really incredible the footage he does."

She recently attended Allen's annual popular year-in-review talk that delves into the local black bear population. "I learned a lot," she says. "I learned bears don't always hibernate all the way through winter. They're so closely connected to the seasons. You never know when you'll see one."

Meanwhile, Arts Whistler is getting ready for the opening party, which is free for the public to attend.

"We've got some bear-inspired food, which is pretty funny," Carpenter says. "It should be a lot of fun. The whole point of this is to celebrate the bears we live with, but also raise awareness of how we can take care of them better."

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