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Banff art walk invites visitors to reconnect with nature

Starting near the Banff Park Museum and finishing near the top of Bow Falls the 1.5-kilometre tree-lined trail features the work of 20 Bow Valley artists

BANFF – An immersive outdoor art exhibit has hit the trails in Banff.

The Art in Nature Walk, located on the Bow River Trail in Banff, was curated by Bridget Ryan and is presented by Banff and Lake Louise Tourism.

“It was basically creating this idea that the healing powers of the forest are something we all need right now and combining that with the wealth of talent that is in the Bow Valley,” said Ryan.

Starting near the Banff Park Museum and finishing near the top of Bow Falls, the 1.5-kilometre tree-lined trail features the work of 20 Bow Valley artists, including students from Grades 1 to 3 from Banff Elementary School.

“The Bow River Trail is a popular trail but it’s not that well known so I think this was a way to diversify and extend people’s experience beyond Banff Avenue and one that leads them to see something different,” said Ryan.

The trail explores many artistic mediums including glass, textile, oil painting, and sculpture. Along the trail there are meaningful and well know quotes about our relationship with the forest.

“It’s intended to be a very healing, inspiring and immersive experience. Taking one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world and then putting this beautiful art work in it is a wonderful thing," said Ryan.

The project was put together over a very short five- to six-week window. Despite the short turnaround time, Ryan said the artists were “very enthusiastic” about contributing to the outdoor gallery.

“We have so much talent that contributed work to this project. To name a few off the top of my head, there is Pascale Oullette, Michael Cameron, Michael Corner, Jason Carter, Gordon Wesley, Cheyenne Bearspaw, who is an up-and-coming superstar,” she said. “It was such a privilege to be able to work with these talented artists. It’s so cool that so many agreed to be a part of it.”

Cheyenne Bearspaw contributed a “wood cookie” painting that is hung up on a tree with a handful of other “wood cookie” paintings.

Inspired by the vibrant colours of a recent thunderstorm that rolled through the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, Bearspaw’s painting pops out from the forest with bright reds and gold.

She described painting on the “wood cookie,” which is made from standing dead trees that were collected by Ryan, as an exciting process that connected her to nature.

“My artwork is inspired by nature. Painting on the wood was a bit strange at first. It’s something I never did before, but it felt right to paint something inspired by nature on nature and then have it be outside,” Bearspaw said.

Ryan said it was important to include Indigenous artists in the project not only because of the fact that the Bow Valley is on Treaty 7 land but because of their talent.

“It wasn’t even a consideration – it’s a constant no-brainer to welcome this talent from Indigenous artists. I think this project shows how diverse and inclusive the Bow Valley is and it’s a way to honour all facets of this area,” said Ryan.

Bearspaw was honoured to be included in the project and is hopeful her participation may help inspire other young artists in the Nation.

“In 2016 I was just doing art for myself. After enough people told me that I should show my work – I listened and now my work is being seen by so many people. I hope there are young artists that will see what I have done and they will be inspired.”

Deanna McGillivray of Fireweed Glass Studio in Canmore also contributed to the project, creating two unique glass pieces of work that were inspired by nature.

“Working in the Bow Valley and being in this incredible landscape – it has seeped into my work especially colours and shapes,” said McGillivray. “It’s incredible to have work in this project that was guided by the natural landscape and have it immersed in the landscape.”

Another artist inspired by our relationship with nature is Lucie Bause, who created two sets of hand-painted canvass tree wraps for the installation.

“Spending time in nature is healing for re-connection to our self and the earth as we are reminded that we are part of nature and its cycles. It also reminds us to include healing practices in our lives such as hiking which help to re-connect us to our true nature,” said Bause.

The Banff Art Walk will be on display until Labour Day.

“I hope this project reaches people who are maybe visiting from outside the Bow Valley and can take away some hope and they can pass that on to others after being immersed in this incredible artistic experience,” said Ryan.

Evan Buhler

About the Author: Evan Buhler

Evan Buhler is an award-winning photojournalist and reporter who joined the Outlook in 2019. A native of Calgary, he previously worked in Salmon Arm, B.C.
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