I’m a proud Canadian, a proud British Columbian, and a proud Cranbrooklyn (that’s the word right?). Spending 28 of my 30 years on this earth in one of the most beautiful corners of the world was certainly a treasure that I’m lucky to look back on and feel quite lucky about.
Cranbrook is a beautiful town (read my love letter to it here) and there’s few things I would change about it, but one of them is the access to the arts community.
Growing up in a sports centric community is an interesting place, the revered celebrities of our neighborhoods are the hockey players who moved on to the National level and brought home gleaming trophies, cups, medals and awards. When it wasn’t hockey, then skiing, rowing, swimming, and other sports quickly followed suit in celebration. For those of us not graced with much of an athletic gift, it was quite disheartening to see opportunity after opportunity for sporting activities but few for arts. I applaud our local heroes for their hard work and dedication but wish our Hall of Fame was a bit more diverse.
I enjoyed creating while growing up and filled my middle and high school curriculum with as many of the arts programs as I could fit into my semesters, one of the main reasons for this was because that was the only place I was truly exposed to art in a broader sense. Fortunately I grew up in a family where art was appreciated and I was able to develop my talents just as my brothers were encouraged to develop theirs. In school I learned about incredible artists from around the world, including Cranbrook. But after those school hours ended, so did my exposure to the arts community. I spent as much time in those classrooms as I could because there was nowhere else for me to go. My teachers, many who became colleagues, dedicated their time and energy making sure we were aware of the amazing talents that existed within our valley home.
In the last 5 years I’ve worked at growing my “artist presence”. I began in Cranbrook, taking photographs in the forests by myself. Soon after I was working with other locals, taking photos of events and growing my own portfolio. In passing I would find other artists, but it seemed like we were part of an underground club showing our work in secret. Or in my case, strictly online where my audience lived. By the time I had started to share my work with friends and family I had almost as many “fans” of my photography facebook page as citizens of my hometown, now it’s reaching a quarter of a million.
We have the passion, we have the talent, but right now it’s like bees buzzing around a garden without a beehive. Musicians recognized nationally, artists working with some of the biggest agencies and companies, writers publishing best sellers, they exist as “hometown heroes” but sadly, have no “home” in our city.
I’m writing this post because even though I’m currently living outside of the city of Cranbrook, I feel passionately about the arts community that exists. And that community needs a home, a real home. The city council has an opportunity to work with the Cranbrook & District Arts Council to provide our community with a class-act arts and culture centre.
I’ve been fortunate to have had my work shown in galleries around the world, published in dozens of countries and have mailed prints to almost every continent but there is no dedicated and accessible place for me to proudly show my work in conjunction with the arts council that believes in the artists of our fair town. I could name a dozen talented painters, illustrators, photographers from our city but unless I find their home address the chance of me seeing their work in person is slim to none. We have a small dedicated gallery, but it’s not enough.
Arts and culture is an important nerve centre in the body of a community. It’s not just a gallery, it’s not just a place to hang pretty pictures, it’s a hub of cultural appreciation and knowledge. As our community grows, the services, all services, should grow with it.
When our previous council voted in favour of building a sports complex to increase our sports presence, it passed. Why can’t that happen with an arts facility? Why can’t we have a gleaming historical building filled with art to show to the world of visitors that come to our city. We can point them to our ice rinks, our ski hills, our campgrounds, but we can’t point them to our Arts Centre.