"Play is what I do for a living. The work comes from organizing that play."
- Anonymous Architect, A Whack On The Side Of The Head
I've never met a more open, more imaginative person in my life. Or a more prolific artist. Really. The guy works his tail off! Forget the usual clichés. His way of making art involves 100 per cent inspiration, 100 per cent perspiration. It isn't something he just does. Art is who he is.
Go ahead, Take a quick mouse-trip through his website if you don't believe me. From delicately drawn pen-and-ink studies to lusciously ladled paintings to hallucinogenic music videos and yes, thigh-slapping horror movies, Stu MacKay-Smith is the real thing. And yet I've never encountered a more humble, more unassuming, down-to-earth guy...
"I'm a product of my upbringing," he says with his marquee chuckle. "I had a wildly creative dad and a strong, disciplined mom. I guess I learned something from both." A pause. A breath. Another quick chuckle. "Maybe that's why I find it hard to take myself too seriously. Yes, for sure I work hard at it, but I have so much fun at what I do that I just can't consider it a 'real' job."
Indeed. The son of Peter and Winnie, the brother of artistic iconoclast Ace and e-game wunderkind Adam, the first-time papa-to-be grew up in a household where "normal" was nothing like the normal most other kids lived in mid-1970s Kamloops. Meaning? Dad's idea of a good time, sister Ace once told me, was helping the kids build a Hot Wheels super-track from the roof of the MacKay-Smith house all the way down into their garden.
Remember Hot Wheels? Remember those flexxy orange tracks that were hell to connect over long distances? Most kids back then thought that setting a track from the dining room table to the floor was extreme. But in the MacKay-Smith abode that just wasn't good enough. "My dad loved to push the envelope," Stu says. "He could turn just about any event into an adventure."
For many of us who were cutting our teeth in the ski business in the early 1970s, Tod Mountain's far-from-normal manager, Peter MacKay-Smith was something of a titan. Blessed with a child's imagination, a salesman's instinct for a great pitch and an unending supply of good-natured energy, MacKay-Smith père organized the kind of on-hill ski parties that his era would soon become famous for...
"It was all about mountain culture back then," adds Stu. "Being an 'outlaw-skier' in those days was like a badge of honour. I remember sneaking down to the Burfield Lodge with Ace and peeking thru the window of the Beer Stube as the adults swung from the chandeliers. Dad and his friends really taught us how to party."