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Art made for walking

The annual Whistler ArtWalk kicks off July 4, packed with work from 80 Sea to Sky artists



Nicola Griffiths's beadmobile is still a work in progress.

A former Fed Ex truck, it's massive and white, save for a splash of purple on the wheels. Inside, the seats are furry and purple on the bottom with multi-colour cougar print on top.

"It's fun to decorate," Griffiths says, "but it's not finished yet."

The upholstery and exterior might be eye-catching, but it's in the back where the magic really happens. "I've got everything I need in there. It's my workshop," Griffiths says.

More specifically, it's her glass blowing workshop. In it, she makes animals, beads and other jewelry at a small, metal desk with something called a cricket hot torch attached to it. Above the desk there's a metal tube for ventilation that becomes especially important if a bead breaks and sends glass fragments into the air.

The space also includes rows of metal shelves where she keeps tubes of glass, tape and other tools for her work.

"I've been living in Whistler for a while renting and not many people are happy about a glass blower in the house because it's a bit of a fire hazard," she says. "I had been thinking about renting a property, but I thought with the van I don't have to rent it, I can buy it straight out."

The beadmobile will be part of the live art demonstrations taking place July 4 throughout the village from 6:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. to kick off ArtWalk, an event that pairs up 80 Sea to Sky artists with 45 venues across town to showcase art from July 1 until Aug. 31.

The July 4 opening evening will also include live music, interactive kids events and 14 other artists painting, knitting and showing off their creativity. "I think (glass blowing is) quite interesting to watch," Griffiths says. "I think people like to watch it because I really don't think they realize what goes into making glass beads. They just see the beads and buy them, but they don't realize the time and effort and design that go into it."

That is the point of ArtWalk: to put on display the work of local artists during peak visitor season to offer them exposure. "It's also a chance to get their artwork out there to show their friends locally their new work," says Andrea Mueller, event coordinator with the Whistler Arts Council.

On average, artists submit around five pieces for their exhibit, which is installed in coffee shops, retail stores and other unusual venues. While WAC juries the submissions, the venues pick which artists they'd like to display. Art lovers are offered brochures to venue jump and take in all the different exhibits.

Local artists like Lisa Geddes, Joan Baron and Blake Jorgenson are all taking part with works displayed everywhere from the Alpine Cafe and Market to Purebread and Scandinave Spa, along with conventional galleries.

"The info centre, the village host, all the hotels are aware of the program, so a lot of people do go on the ArtWalk specifically," Mueller says. "This year, our brochure is categorized. Some people are into the full gamut of art work, but there are some who are more interested in nature or urban contemporary work. We colour-coded the artists' work so people can have an idea what they can expect at that venue."

While the ArtWalk — which also runs at venues in Function Junction — can be a good place for artists to sell work, it's about more than that, Mueller says.

"We do have art sales every year," she says. "It depends on the year. For me as an artist, I do sell during ArtWalk. It also gets your name out there, your work out there. It's promoting you to a global audience. You might not sell something at ArtWalk, but you'll get more recognition."

As part of the event, Scotia Creek Gallery will also host a new photography exhibit. Called How I See It!, it will feature the work of seven photographers. They were selected based on their similarities to one another, either in subject matter or composition. It feature landscapes, portraits, digitally-manipulated photos, basically everything outside of Whistler's photography bread and butter.

"We haven't really had much in the way of photography in Whistler besides looking at action sports," Mueller says. "We wanted to do something a little different."


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