LUNA preview: Revelstoke’s visual arts scene is taking off

We spoke with professional Revelstoke artists to talk about past and future changes in the local arts scene, and to find out their views on the future of professional arts in Revy.

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These sculptures of bears and mountain caribou were created using recycled materials by Revelstoke artist Zuzana Riha for the 2018 LUNA Art Festival. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

This article first appeared in print in the September 2019 issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine, the sister publication to revelstokemountaineer.com

Compiled by Aaron Orlando from the artists’ written answers to text questions we posed.

This story is one of a series featuring LUNA Fest artists from our latest print issue. The third annual festival happens Sept. 27-29 in downtown Revelstoke. The festival has been a runaway success, drawing well over 6,000 attendees in 2018 to the free arts fest evening that sees dozens and dozens of artists display their works at all kinds of interesting downtown venues. The community has really bought into this festival, which features a mix of local talent and visiting visual and performing artists. Saturday’s main visual arts fest is an all-ages, broad demographic event and has something for little kids in the afternoon and evening all the way to licensed events after midnight. Revelstoke’s population fluctuates and is debatable, but I believe it’s safe to say that more than half the town attended last year, and likely had a good time with the fun, social format. There’s a lot of anticipation for the 2019 LUNA this weekend. The event has added a Friday LUNA Sound music-oriented show (sold out) and more events on Sunday. If you’re from out of town, consider filling up the car with friends and visiting for the main Saturday exhibition, and witness the energy of a budding festival that captures the vibe of the youthful and growing art scene in Revy.

See our photo gallery from the 2018 festival here:

Big photo gallery: Successful LUNA fest captures Revelstoke’s emerging arts zeitgeist

Here’s our story on the growing Revelstoke visual arts scene from the September print issue: 

Revelstoke’s arts scene is in transition. While the amateur arts scene continues to be strong, a new wave of professional and semi-professional artists are able to support or supplement their income with their art. Ahead of the LUNA festival, we caught up with six local artists to find out how the arts scene has changed, and what they predict for the future of visual arts in Revelstoke.

Rob Buchanan

Rob Buchanan

Rob Buchanan is an award-winning professional photographer, artist, designer and editorial cartoonist. His photographs have appeared in many places including National Geographic Adventure and Traveler Magazines, the Knowledge Network and the Patagonia clothing catalogs. His winning images have been on two world tours with the Banff Film Festival and even appeared on the Jumbotron in New York’s Times Square. He has worked as an editorial cartoonist for 24 years for the Revelstoke Review where he has won two provincial awards. His large-scale metal interactive public art installations have been used by thousands of visitors to Rogers Pass and Revelstoke, B.C. He has taken documentary photos for the Canadian Physicians for Aid & Relief in Malawi, Africa, worked in Nepal, Belize, Costa Rica, Turkey, and the Western Arctic. In his 23-year career as a professional exhibit designer, he has worked in mediums as diverse as sandblasted rock, water-jet cut steel, wood, moss, spray paint, fiberglass, linocuts, film, sound, and light. In 2018, he served as one of nine provincial arts and culture ambassadors for BC Culture Days. Currently, he can be found plotting and scheming about contemporary art installations for Revelstoke’s Luna Art Festival.

Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine: What are some exciting projects you’ve been working on?

Rob Buchanan: I’m very excited to be working on the first phase of the Art Alleries project. This was an installation idea I presented to the LUNA selection committee in 2017 as a permanent LUNA Legacy Project. It was accepted in 2018 when funds from the Columbia Basin Trust became available. The basic concept for this project is to re-imagine an alley as an outdoor art gallery: alleys + art galleries = art alleries. The idea is to repurpose a series of alleys into a thematic, walkable and barrier-free, open-sky art gallery experience. Imagine gritty laneways and dumpsters, snow, the evening darkness, and the ambient noises of a city juxtaposed with fine art hanging on the worn alley walls. The goal is that every year, new artists would be selected to open new alleys. Lit with solar powered LED picture lights, an Art Alleries tour would offer an authentic, behind-the scenes look into a city. Not only will these alleys be repurposed into a constant reminder of a vibrant arts and cultural sector, introducing light into dark environments also serves to improve safety in our downtown core.

Rob Buchanan’s Climbing Skin Mosiac of Mt. Sir Donald in Rogers Pass. Image: Rob Buchanan

RM: Tell us about your work for LUNA this year.

RB: One exciting project I’m involved in is the “Peek-a-Booth” installation. Six artists from six different mediums will combine to take over one of our downtown kiosks and transform it into an infinity landscape experience. This project involves Kyle Thornley the blacksmith, Leah Allison the glass blower, Jess Leahey the painter, Kelly Hutcheson the stain-glass artist, Greg Hoffart the builder, as well as myself and incorporates mirrors, peep holes and optical illusions. This installation takes the viewer on a voyage far above our traditional mountain landscape.

What trends have you noticed in Revelstoke’s arts scene over the past decade?

This is a very exciting time for Arts and Culture in Revelstoke. I’ve been working here for almost 25 years and in the last few years I’ve seen a huge increase in artists coming to town. From video projectionists to filmmakers, glass and metal artists, painters, sculptors, writers, photographers, musicians, designers, curators and all other manner of creative types – the Revestoke art scene is taking off! And not only are there artists in town, there is a legitimate audience and a buying public to help support them. One trend I’ve really noticed is the growing vibrant metal art community. I’m so excited to see all the welders, blacksmiths, fabricators and machinists who are operating locally. I love public art, and metal sculptures are really well suited to Revelstoke’s challenging outdoor environment. The other trend that puts a smile on my face is collaboration. Every year I see more artists of different disciplines combining to share skills and inspire each other. Sometimes being an artist can be a lonely pursuit, but in Revelstoke there is a very welcoming and inclusive vibe.

What are your predictions for the Revelstoke arts scene over the next decade?

I predict that not only Revelstoke, but also the entire Columbia Basin will unite to form a regional art powerhouse! Much like the Powder Highway concept, Revelstoke to Nakusp to Nelson to Castlegar, as well as other Basin communities will actively develop their arts and culture offerings into a linked four season destination experience that celebrates creativity and diversity while travelling through one of the most stunning landscapes in Canada. Revelstoke, with its strategic position on the Trans-Canada highway, will play a gateway role. Artists of all mediums (and even some that haven’t been dreamt up yet) will continue to call Revelstoke home.

Kyle Thornley

Kyle is a trained welder who found the creative side of metal work over ten years ago. He is trying to expand my working vocabulary in the medium.

Blacksmithing is about breathing life into a cold and harsh material with heat and force. He manipulates metal and iron as if it were plastic, creating shape, line, and form with a number of different tools and techniques. “For me and the work I create I’m often drawing on inspiration for the natural world; sculptural and functional art pieces that are a rep of what I see around me. But, as I move ahead the creative experience and what I produce is ever changing.”

Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine: Tell us about some exciting projects you’ve been working on.

Kyle Thornley: Currently I am collaborating on a large-scale interpretive, sculptural piece with Parks Canada. This is a really exciting project to be working on as it combines art culture and blacksmithing with environmental education and awareness.

I’m also working on a new public art commission that I have been chosen to work on. A large-scale organic sculptural piece that will be fountains in a few parks across Red Deer. And I have been accepted into a spot in the final round of another public art commission; we are just in the design stage, but it has been exciting to be a part of the process. I have been spending time exploring projects and pieces that incorporate recycled materials as much as possible.

Kyle Thornley’s Seedpod sculpture. Photo: Katie Langmuir

RM: Tell us about your work for LUNA this year. What was your inspiration for the work?

KT: I draw a lot inspiration from my external environment, living here in Revelstoke we spend so much of our time in the outdoors, as do others who live and visit the area. The pinecone is something those that get outside on the trails and elsewhere that everyone comes into contact with. It seemed like something that would translate well on a large scale. That and it’s something that everyone, even those that are not from the area would recognize, are interested in, and be fascinated by.

In terms of support for artists, what are the key supports you need from the community to thrive?

Having a ton of support from the community is the key to any kind of success, small mountain town or otherwise; however, living here I have truly come to understand the necessity of this support from others. Being a small town your access to materials, gear or any other specific needs can sometimes be hard to come by. Knowing there’s a whole community of people there if I need something is incredible. There are lots of opportunities here in town through collectives, businesses, and incredible festivals like LUNA that provides incredible exposure to a broader community (one outside of Revelstoke) that I would not otherwise reach

Revelstoke has the most incredible arts community with so many workshops and opportunities to display your work.

How would you describe the Revelstoke arts scene to someone who’s never visited here?

Thriving, exciting, collaborative and diversified; it’s incredible to see the diversity in both the type of art being created here in Revelstoke and the artists themselves. It is a town that is such a draw for adventure seekers and younger people, those with new ideas and approaches to any given art form. Looking around town now you can see more contemporary art creations, murals, and street art side by side with more traditional and realistic art pieces that represent another experience and perspective of our mountain experiences.

Looking forward to the next decade, what do you predict for the Revelstoke arts scene and your arts career?

I see the Revelstoke art scene continuing to grow and diversify. How can it not? The possibilities here in Revelstoke for artists and creatives of all kinds just keep growing. Thanks to festivals like LUNA, ArtFirst, and so many of the other supports available the future of Revelstoke’s art scene is pretty bright. More people will be coming to join in and this spells success for everyone. I hope to find a solid footing here in Revelstoke for my art, but would love to see my work stretch beyond our mountain home to connect with other communities and places across the country, bringing a piece of my experience and perspective to them of our paradise here in the mountains.

Jess Leahey

Jess Leahey

My name is Jess Leahey. I am a full-time illustrator and visual artist. I work in multiple mediums ranging from my better-known works in pen and ink, to acrylic and watercolour paint, and, thanks to LUNA Fest, I am currently cutting my teeth in installation and public art. Most of my work could fall into the category of abstract landscape, but I like to inject a few cheeky details and give the piece a little extra life.

Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine: Tell us about some exciting projects you are working on.

Jess Leahey: LUNA is always my most exciting project. I get to work with my peers, which is so energizing because most artists work alone, and I get to make something big, and weird, and exciting for all my friends and family. There are not many places that even let you make public art, not to mention give you a budget and throw you a party. The concept of interactive art public art is such a small niche that it’s hard to even find in urban centers, I can’t believe we get to do it in our small town. It’s really fun.

RM: These days what are the keys to earning a living as an artist in a small mountain town like Revelstoke?

Jess Leahey’s Ski Hill and Canoe. Image: Jess Leahey

JL: For me it’s been diversity and flexibility. Diversity in mediums opens up a lot more opportunity for work. Commissions alleviate some of the stress of contract work. I know a lot of artists have a difficult time working to someone else’s vision, but I really enjoy it, probably because I work a lot in the ski industry so I like what I am making. I think a great thing about Revelstoke is that it isn’t saturated in any one medium or genre. A small community only has a handful of full time artists, which makes it easier to build a following. There is space and work for all of us which makes it friendly and supportive, not competitive like you might find in the city.

What trends have you noticed in the arts scene in Revelstoke over the past years?

Growth. Art and tourism really flatter each other. As tourism booms more local artists are able to make a career here. I am very excited to see the arts being taken more seriously as business and a generator of income, in the past I felt a lot of our resources and energy went to hobby facilitating, which of course is important, but created a glass ceiling of sorts for artists wanting to elevate to the next level. It’s nice having a place to show your art shown, but I need to sell it, and recently that’s been getting easier as art buyers are visiting or relocating to the area.

Turbo Bambi

Turbo Bambi with a recent work at the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre.

Based in the beautiful mountains of British Columbia, Bambi is an artist who’s as familiar with traditional methods as she is with the digital world. The “Turbo” moniker represents a dark and bold aesthetic, whereas “Bambi” stems from an affinity for cute and colourful imagery. While markers, drawing tablets, acrylics, and oils make frequent appearances, all mediums are welcome in Bambi Land. Catch the wave to her Instagram for more @turbobambi_design

Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine: Tell us about some exciting projects you’ve been working on.

Turbo Bambi: Last spring, I was given the opportunity to teach art to kids in my first language — French, at L’ecole des Glaciers. It was such a great experience, I am now teaching art the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre. I also have a special mural in progress. It will be revealed on my Instagram page once it’s completed. Stay tuned!

Graphic design work by Turbo Bambi. Image: Turbo Bambi

RM: Tell us about your work for LUNA this year. What was your inspiration for the work?

TB: I’m trying to keep this year’s LUNA project as a surprise but one thing I can say is that it will be very true to my current style. As you may know, Cyclops are a recurring theme in my art and this time is no exception. Festivalgoers will be able to spot this tall and colourful structure from afar. However, once they get closer, they might be facing an illusion.

Benji Lowclass

Benji Lowclass

Benji Lowclass is a freelance graphic designer and illustrator based out of Revelstoke.

Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine: Tell us about some exciting projects you’ve been working on.

Benji Lowclass: I just finished painting a couple walls downtown Nelson for the International Mural Festival. For the past year I have been working with a small team on a graphic novel. We plan to release the first volume in late fall. I worked on artist series outerwear for Bula head ware and accessories. I’m in the early stages of an album cover design for the band UB40.

Benji Lowclass with a mural he created in Nelson this summer as part of the Nelson International Mural Festival. Photo: Electrify Photography

RM: Tell us about your work for LUNA this year. What was your inspiration for the work?

BL: I plan to spray paint a Revy-inspired mural on the back wall in the alleyway of the Free Spirits Sports shop. I want to see more walls painted in town; it’s a great way to show off what we’re all about.

What trends have you noticed in the arts scene in Revelstoke over the past years?

I’ve noticed more and more artists working and collaborating together to create more art in the community.

In terms of support for artists, what are the key supports you need from the community to thrive?

Hire a local graphic designer, illustrator, artist or photographer. There are talented professionals in this town with the insight and skills to create quality advertisements, posters, apparel, logos, photography and more.

Leah Allison

Leah Allison

I’m a glass artist and the owner of Big Eddy Glass Works, a glass blowing and flame-working studio and gallery in the Big Eddy. I’ve been living in Revelstoke since 2013 and have been making glass for 17 years. I love blowing glass and making things that are beautiful, functional and unique, focusing mainly on drink ware and cocktail-making accessories. I believe that everything tastes better out of a handmade glass.

Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine: Tell us about your work for LUNA this year. What was your inspiration for the work?

My inspiration for LUNA is actually LUNA, the most magical night in Revelstoke! The collaborative spirit and community support is amazing and I am stoked to be a part of it! One of my projects will consist of hundreds of pieces of blown glass and a lot of LED lights. By using the unique properties of glass to refract, reflect and transmit light I plan to turn a small section of downtown Revelstoke into a magical, starry sky.

Looking forward to the next decade, what do you predict for the Revelstoke arts scene and your arts career?

File photo: Glass artist Leah Allison’s work ‘Stumped’ at the Revelstoke Art Gallery. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer

I’ve definitely seen growth in the arts scene during the six years that I’ve lived here but there is still a long way to go before people think of Revelstoke as an art destination. But I think the next decade will be bringing a lot of growth to Revelstoke and as far as the arts scene goes, I think it’s going to explode and I’m excited to be a part of it!

LUNA Fest Runs Sept. 27–29 in Revelstoke. See stories, ads and the calendar listing in the September print issue for more information, or check out the LUNA Art Festival website.

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