A&E » Arts

Whistler's rich history of public art

A collection of 59 significant pieces from a program celebrating its 20th anniversary



Do you know about the Squamish Nation's connection with the Salmon People?

No? Well, we've got a piece of art for that.

A yellow-cedar house post carved by indigenous artist Aaron Nelson-Moody in 2009 tells the tale of the salmon, which is still so important to the Squamish's cultural identity, all exquisitely carved in the Coast Salish tradition.

The post holds up a corner of the day lodge at Whistler Olympic Park and was commissioned by the Organizing Committee of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

It is one of four unique pieces at Whistler Olympic Park, located in the Callaghan Valley south of Whistler.

Salmon People remains an artistic legacy for Whistler, one of 59 pieces of art listed in the public art collection of the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW).

Councillor Andrée Janyk, a member of the RMOW's public art committee, says Whistler's public art program is now 20 years old.

"The entire program came out of a tour made by the council of the day to Aspen in 1996. They had a chance to look at the amazing collection there and saw this was missing from Whistler. When they returned it was something they were committed to," Janyk says.

She could not say what the overall value of the collection is, but agreed it was considerable. It ranges from monumental stone and wood sculpture to Whistler's Olympic and Paralympic medals, kept in the RMOW offices, to the street banners to be found around the resort.

"When I was first asked to be on the committee, I rode around the valley and visited every piece in the art collection," she says.

"I was surprised by the richness of what we have in Whistler."

Asked what her own favourite public art pieces are, Janyk names Susan's Point's bronze, A Timeless Circle, unveiled in front of the Maury Young Arts Centre earlier this year.

The final artistic legacy from the 2010 Winter Games, the Musqueam First Nation's artist carved from cedar 43 double-sided faces, 86 faces in all, to represent the visitors from around the world who came to Whistler to see the Games.

The carvings were later cast in bronze.

"I think it is so beautiful and such a wonderful commemoration for us to remember the legacy of the Games," Janyk says.

Her other favourite is a completely different concept — Poet's Pause. It is as much an event as a piece of outside art, with winners of the annual Mayor's Poetry Challenge, in its 11th year in 2016, adorning sculptures — Lost in Sound and Lakeside Couple — in Alta Lake Park.

Each selected poem is there for visitors to enjoy for a year, and draws entries from all over the world.

"It is so nice to have this in the Alta Lake Park," Janyk says.

"It seems to add to how wonderful it is to relax there on a summer day."

Janyk's interest in public art surprised her when she joined the committee, she says.

"I'm a sportsperson. I live in Whistler because of the mountains. I love being a part of the soccer here, too, but public art is something I have gained so much from. I was at the unveiling of a new underpass at Nesters Crossing with a mural by Kris Kupskay."

Many pieces can be visited on Whistler Cultural Connector path that covers the centre of the village and the Upper Village.

And on Dec. 29, Whistler's favourite piece of public art in 2016 will be named in Pique's annual Best of Whistler vote.

For now, it's a surprise. Grab a copy of Pique in two weeks to find out what people voted for.

For more on Whistler's public art, visit www.whistler.ca.

Can you find them?

Key public art pieces

Thunderspirit by Ray Nataroro — at the Creekside alpine skiing venue. A sculpture of powder-coated aluminum

World's Largest Pine Cone by Paul Slipper and Mary-Ann Liu — on the Valley Trail at the south end of Alta Lake.

Museum Mural by Kris Kupskay — at the Whistler Museum and Archives on Main Street. Painting inspired by the pioneers of Whistler.

Welcome totem by Aaron Nelson-Moody — carved at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre and located on the Village Stroll in Whistler Village.

Hey-yay-meymuy (Big Flood) by Xwalacktun — this large aluminum column is a landmark at the entrance of the Audain Art Museum.