Lakeside art workshops flourish 

Whistler Arts Council’s summer sessions expand, gain popularity in third year

The sun is starting to set a bit earlier, and there’s a slight chill in the evening air; summer is slowly fading away, and the Whistler Art Council’s annual Art Workshops on the Lake are winding down after a busy season.

This year’s program included workshops that ranged in content and price, from $20 drop-in life drawing sessions with Maeve Bellmore every Monday night, to $330 intermediate acrylic painting classes with Suzanne Northcott.

Watercolour, oil, acrylic, and sketching classes are taught by a range of experienced, reputable instructors like Cameron Bird, Grant Fuller, Isobel MacLaurin, Janice Robertson, Kiff Holland, Lori Goldberg, and Richard McDiarmid.

It was the third — and most popular — summer for the workshops, which were almost entirely sold out.

“It’s been going very well,” said Ali Richmond, marketing coordinator for WAC. “Basically the entire month, all of the workshops that took place in July were basically full in June, and we had a waiting list of, I think, eight people on some of them. It just got to the point where we just take names and hope that we would be able to contact those people interested for next year’s summer.”

Holland’s workshop, which didn’t take place until late July, was sold out by May.

There were also a few last-minute additions to the schedule, including a new workshop by popular local artist, Chili Thom.

“We saw quite a few local artists go to his, because it was more of an intermediate class, and then a couple guys from the Sunshine Coast, that are fans of his work, they came.”

While the workshop didn’t quite sell out, Richmond said that was likely because it was only announced at the last minute. They’re hoping Thom will agree to participate again next year, so they can include his workshop in the program.

Last weekend, WAC collaborated with the Adele Campbell Gallery, as the gallery was holding their Painting on the Peak sessions with one of their artists, Cameron Bird. WAC was hoping those participants would elect to also partake in the one-day oil painting workshop the following day.

“That’s why Painting on the Peak sort of complements the art workshops, because its more of watching those artists work, and then you have a panel discussion… then ours is an actual instruction of artists,” Richmond explained.

Organizers also added drop-in studio time, which is $10 a session, to the schedule.

When the program was first started in 2006, only basic workshops were offered for one month, as a trial run of the event.

“It was popular, obviously not as popular as it is now,” Richmond said.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler allows the Arts Council to operate the workshops out of the Alta Lake Station House, a space that is also used by the Whistler Writers Group during the fall for their Writer In Residence Program.

“It’s been great for us in the summer,” Richmond said. “We’ve been able to use it this summer for the workshops. It’s a fantastic setting; everyone always loves it. We’ve had a lot of return participants that have returned even for the third year.”

This year, the RMOW also solved some issues WAC was having with space, opening up the area with a larger deck and French doors.

The third year of the event has included more workshops than ever before, and almost all have been filled to capacity.

“A lot of people really see improvement in their own painting after they take these workshops, which is fantastic and exactly what we want to see,” Richmond said.

Many of the participants come for an artistic retreat, and this year, they were able to take advantage of a new accommodation partnership between WAC and the new boutique hotel, Nita Lake Lodge, which is only 10 minutes away from the Station House.

Despite the popularity of the workshops, they aren’t a big money maker for WAC. Since the organization is non-profit, the series isn’t intended to generate revenue, but this year, they’ve managed to break even, which demonstrates just how successful the event has grown to be.


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