Art as economic driver

Sculpturewalk 2016 begins in May in Castlegar, B.C.

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"Pearl" by Fred Dobbs of Victoria, B.C., was displayed on the Castlegar, B.C. Sculpturewalk until January 2016, when it was purchased and shipped to its new home in India. — Colin Payne Photography photo

The second weekend in May is an exciting annual weekend for the community of Castlegar, B.C. In April the city will bid farewell to the 32 sculptures that have been displayed on its Sculpturewalk for the past 11 months to make room for a whole new gallery’s worth of sculptures from around the world. This changing selection of art pieces means there’s a new show every year, and it has become an important attraction in the Kootenay region.

Adding a truly fresh element to the annual display are some remarkable eco-sculptures created by Communities in Bloom—it’s art that lives, grows and changes throughout the seasons.

Local artist Pat Field was inspired by the Sculpturewalk that he visited in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for its success as both an arts project and an economic generator. Field thought a similar project in Castlegar could have the same success, so he promoted the idea there.

The mayor and council decided early on to provide some financial support for the project, and Castlegar’s first Sculpturewalk took place in 2010. The populace has embraced the program wholeheartedly, and its growth has been impressive.

“In the four years that I’ve been on board with Sculpturewalk, we’ve had a huge increase in the number of artist applications, which is a great measure of the program’s growing exposure and success,” said Joy Barrett, executive director of Castlegar Sculpturewalk. “We don’t have a cap on the number of sculptures, but our priority is to grow the quality of the program rather than the quantity of pieces.

"V Formation" by Nathan Smith of Nelson, B.C., is part of Sculpturewalk 2015 in Castlegar, B.C. — Colin Payne Photography photo

“Last year we welcomed artists from Cuba, Australia and Iran, and this year we have artists from Russia and Kazakhstan joining us. We’ve truly become an international program.”

The sculptures are available for sale or lease, and some of Castlegar’s neighbours are leasing sculptures from the program for display in their own communities. Nelson is leasing five pieces annually and Rossland is on board as well. With annual leases starting at $1,500, it’s an affordable way for communities to increase their public art and beautify their cities.

“We welcome interest from other communities,” Barrett said. “Sculpturewalk is the Number 1-rated attraction in Castlegar, according to TripAdvisor, and it’s really put Castlegar on the national stage in terms of public art. In fact, in 2014 Castlegar received the trademark of the Sculpture Capital of Canada from the Government of Canada Trademark Division—not bad for a city of fewer than 10,000 citizens. ”

Indeed, Castlegar has become a destination of choice for travellers who wish to enjoy a relaxing afternoon at the Millennium Ponds, a meander among the sculptures, a meal in one of the growing number of restaurants and perhaps a little retail therapy.

Marie Milner

Marie Milner is a writer and photographer for Kootenay Business magazine and several other publications. She appreciates the inspiration that she gets during her interviews and hopes to share that inspiration with you. View all of Marie Milner’s articles

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