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Introducing the Audain Art Museum to Whistler

Executive director Suzanne Greening describes impact of the gallery at chamber luncheon



After years of planning, the Audain Art Museum will open in Whistler in just over four months, on Nov. 21.

And with the date ever nearing, the museum's executive director Suzanne Greening gave a friendly introduction to its history and potential at a Whistler Chamber of Commerce luncheon for business members on Wednesday, July 8, at Araxi.

Greening opened with introducing Yoshi Karasawa, the wife of museum co-founder Michael Audain's and his partner behind the museum's many donated pieces.

"In terms of philanthropists and art collectors in Canada, they may not be the largest, but as far as I am concerned they're the finest. Yoshi and Michael have been collecting art for decades," Greening said.

She told the story of Audain's love of art starting in his youth and his willingness to spend months paying off a painting he had purchased.

"He would cut out photos from magazines of famous art works from the Louvre or the Metropolitan, and he jokes that while his buddies would have Marilyn Monroe or Rocket Richard on their walls, he would have art," she said.

From this early passion grew an impressive collection of artists such as Emily Carr and the Group of Seven, and an impressive collection of First Nations Art from British Columbia that spans 200 years, the latter of which is now secured within B.C. and would not be taken out of the province, she said.

Audain and Karasawa wanted to share their collection and had built a relationship with the Vancouver Art Gallery, where many works went on loan. Eventually, though, the idea of a dedicated museum appealed to them and Whistler was selected.

Greening said she was already fielding interested inquiries from future visitors, not least at the Blackcomb Way site of the museum, which is now nearing completion.

"I was standing in front of the museum one day, and there were a bunch of consultants standing around, and this couple walked by. And I heard them muttering, 'Who is the Audain and what kind of art did he do?' I saw an opportunity," Greening said.

She likened explaining to the passersby what her role is to introducing the museum to the wider Whistler community.

Programs for the museum are currently under development, Greening said, with the entry price set at $15 for adults and free for children.

Another announcement was that works by B.C. artists would be for sale in the Audain's gift shop.

The museum is opening with a temporary show by internationally acclaimed B.C. photographer Jeff Wall.

"Whistler businesses should prepare themselves for the opening of the Audain Museum by going to the website and educating themselves and their team," said Whistler Chamber CEO Val Litwin.

"This is going to be a world-class attraction when it opens; our guests will be full of questions and we should be recommending they visit during their stay."

Ann Popma, Whistler's community cultural officer, listened to Greening's presentation and said she hoped it would explain the opportunities the museum can bring to the resort.

"I think people should realize how much a part of the community the Audain Museum is intending to be. There has been some thought that it is a private business, but it's very much part of the community," Popma said.

For more information visit www.audainartmuseum.com.


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