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The art of mountain life

Gutmann finds his place at Whistler, Part ii

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Aki's roommate at the time was a snowboard instructor from San Diego. And one day they got talking about boys. And more particularly about boys in the school. Arne shrugs. Grins. "I was given to understand that Aki might be interested in dating me," he reveals. "So I immediately invited her out on a ski/snowboard date." He says it was the best mountain date ever — and the beginning of a great relationship. "Soon after that, we moved into staff housing together — in Building 7." Another radiant smile. "She's an avid cook," adds Arne, "And I like cooking too. So we really worked well together."

But there were challenges to the relationship too. "Aki could only stay here for the winters," he explains. "So for eight months she'd go back to Japan while I stayed in Whistler trying to hold it all together." It was a situation that couldn't last. And being the doer that he is, Gutmann decided to seize the opportunity. "So in 2002, I went to Japan and asked for her hand in marriage," he says. "And she accepted! We've been together ever since."

Like most young couples, the Gutmann's bounced all over the valley until their name came up on the local housing list and they were able to buy a condo in Function Junction. "Which," says Arne, "has worked out perfectly for us."

Indeed. The new/old nexus of artistic life at Whistler, Function Junction pulsates with creative energy. And it was there that Arne's enthusiasm for all things edgy would finally find a home. "That's where I befriended artist Dave Petko," he says. "We did the ARTrageous scene together in the early years." He laughs. "We did a lot of partying too — that is until the whole ARTrageous thing got too commercial."

Petko — better known as Pepe to his friends — also ran a production company in those days. "It was called Blind Mute Productions," explains Gutmann. "And it was really gritty stuff. Cutting-edge shows, small venues — full-on low-brow art." Another long sigh. "But there was no photographer involved. So I said to Pepe: 'Dude — this is for me. I love gritty. I love people. I'm in!"

And just like that, he was in. "That's what I love so much about Whistler," he adds. "In Toronto it's really hard to crack the art cliques. But here, the moment I made contact with Pepe and his friends I felt like I was included in their world. The collaborative aspect of the Whistler arts scene is quite unique I think. Gets the creative juices flowing, for sure."

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