Local artist supports Mountain Caribou Recovery Project
Housed in what used to be a laundry facility for many decades, the gallery is now a beautifully renovated retail and performance space that is also available for rent.
The gallery director, Irma De Visser, was careful to retain some of the character of the old laundry facility and inside you will still find a large commercial washer; a coin changing machine; and some other remnants of the laundromat. The venue is known locally as simply “The Laundromat.”
Approximately 400-square-feet of the art gallery space is dedicated to monthly changing solo art exhibitions with the remaining space dedicated to ongoing displays of artwork by Kootenay artists as well as some artists from Alberta and the west coast of B.C.
Art Gallery Kimberley is hosting its first solo art exhibition (May 4-27) with artworks by talented Kimberley artist Grant Smith.
As Grant has always been concerned when wildlife’s welfare is disregarded for the sake of monetary gain, animal conservation is a recurring theme in his artworks and in his latest artwork titled “Mountain Caribou Recovery Project” in particular.
Grant knew that he was still lamenting the loss of our South Purcell Mountain Caribou herd, three years after their disappearance from our area, so he wanted to spend some creative time thinking about their beauty and uniqueness and how he could bring them back. In the hope of seeing the restoration of the mountain caribou to their former ranges in southern British Columbia, Grant spent time creating the shapes of mountain caribou in wire and, using wooden dowels on masonite, pegging them firmly back into place.
“I enjoyed working simply with their shapes in wire and then I discovered that the wire cast shadows onto surfaces, a bit like ghosts or memories,”he said.
The artwork evolved slowly. Over the period of a couple of months Grant enjoyed spending time thinking about mountain caribou. When asked what the challenges were in creating this artwork, Grant says: “Bending and soldering the wire was a bit of a challenge, but the handmade wooden pegs which the wire clicks into were a real challenge to get right.”
The last few remaining mountain caribou in the South Purcell herd were removed or abandoned to their fate in 2019.
“This is the first time in my life when a group of wild animals has become extinct in my own backyard, so to speak,” said Grant. “Collectively, we need actions to bring the Mountain Caribou back to southeastern British Columbia. The remaining stands of inland old growth temperate rainforest need to be protected from clear cut logging, abandoned forestry service roads need to be decommissioned, recreation in sensitive areas needs to be curtailed and protected wildlife corridors across neighbouring watersheds need to be created.”
Grant added: “There are no immediate plans to try again at reintroducing mountain caribou from other herds into our area, but maybe with good stewardship of the remaining herds and habitat protection and connectivity, the mountain caribou can grow back into this region and things can be put right.”
Grant will be donating the proceeds from his latest artwork to Wildsight’s Mountain Caribou Recovery Project working to protect mountain caribou and their Inland Temperate Rainforest habitat, neither of which are found anywhere else on earth.
When asked why he chose Wildsight’s project, Grant responds: “I first learned about mountain caribou in this area from Dave Quinn, a Wildsight biologist, and then from Eddie Petryshen, a Wildsight conservation affiliate. I admired the brave work of John Bergenske speaking up for the environment. Wildsight brought the attention of the decline and disappearance of the mountain caribou to the general public and to the B.C. Government. I want to support their efforts by donating the proceeds from my artwork to Wildsight.”
Grant’s solo art exhibition at Art Gallery Kimberley also features his latest stencil and block prints of local animals and chalk drawings of pine trees from the Second Butte in Wycliffe and the backyards of houses along 106th Avenue Rails-to-Trails pathway.
Lead image: Mountain Caribou Recovery Project by Grant Smith | Medium: Wire, Wooden Pegs on Masonite Board. Available for purchase at Art Gallery Kimberley. Photos submitted