The devastating floods in Alberta earlier this year galvanized help from a lot of concerned people and Michelle Kirkegaard of the Adele Campbell Fine Art Gallery at the Westin Resort in Whistler is one of them.
A Calgarian herself, Kirkegaard said she and her gallery partner, Liz Harris, are supporting the fundraising efforts of popular painter Cameron Bird and sculptor Vance Theoret. The two are putting their artistic skills towards flood relief on Aug. 30 and 31, creating works that will be sold with the proceeds going to the province's Red Cross.
The weekend fundraiser kicks off summer exhibitions by the two artists, which run well into September.
"Cameron has a great following in Calgary," Kirkegaard said. "He has his rugged landscapes so this was a perfect fit. We were talking about what we were going to support this year and we have friends, family and clients who have been affected by the flood and we thought we should be doing this."
The gallery has been known for hosting local exhibitions and artist demonstrations, and has in the past hosted these as fundraisers.
"In the past we've supported different community organizations, whether it's the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation or American Friends of Whistler. Search and rescue is another one that Cameron Bird has been involved with," Kirkegaard said.
"This year, we have a painting that Cameron is doing that is specifically for auction to raise money for the flood relief. We're lucky, our artists are sought after and people love their pieces. It's usually full retail value of a painting. We're hoping to raise between $2,200 and $3,200.
"Cameron is one of our longest showing artists in the gallery and for us it is connecting the people in the community to our landscape beyond Whistler. That's our take on what we do. We're global; we're out there. Look at the power of Mother Nature in Alberta."
Theoret, who specializes in carving soapstone bears and other animals, is also having a name-the-bear contest.
Seventy people are expected at the Artists' Reception, which takes place on Friday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., though over the course of the weekend many more will drop by to watch the demonstration on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
"For the demonstration, Vance will be carving some sculptures and Cameron will be doing an en plein air (landscape) oil painting on his easel," Kirkegaard said.
Bird, like Theoret, lives in 100 Mile in the Cariboo region, but said Whistler is like a second home.
Bird has been doing these annual shows since Adele Campbell Gallery opened in the mid-90s.
"I usually have a show around Labour Day and Vance and I started showing together in Invermere a couple of years ago and it was the perfect mix," Bird said. "Bears and other animals and my paintings, they tend to draw the right crowds. Our pieces complement each other because it's such a great mash."
The positive response in Whistler led them to continue.
"When you're doing a show with another painter, you're both competing on the walls for look. In this case, we're both doing our own things. A lot of collectors have bought both because they do go together, the landscapes stick together well with the sculpted animals," Bird said.
"I'm still thinking about what I am going to paint, but it will definitely be something located in Alberta. Probably something along the lines of Moraine Lake. I've been working on a big one in the studio on Spirit Island and I could do a smaller version of that for the show. I'm thinking a 20 x 24 size."
He echoed Kirkegaard in his regard for Alberta and its importance to his career.
"Alberta is a big, big market for landscape artists and they've done so much and so we want to give something back. We were talking and wanted to do something," Bird said.
"There will be lots of new pieces in the show. Lots of larger pieces. I have been finding that people having been asking for larger pieces. I decided to just focus on larger for the show. People seem to want big right now and I love painting really big," Bird said. "I use a lot of paint so it takes me a little longer with the big ones to get the texture I want."