Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kelowna, BC - A City Which Takes Pride in its Arts

My wife and I walked around the cultural district of Kelowna, BC today and I have to tell you that we were very impressed.  As mamma so aptly put it; "Its a shame that other cities don't place the arts this high in importance."

Before going any further its important to present the history of this area. At one time this area was an industrial zone of  canneries, railways, shipping wharves, a sawmill, a packinghouse, and even a cigar factory. This 6 block area, was once the centre of the Okanagan Fruit Industry. Since a lot of the land was belonged to public ownership, it seemed understandable that the city believed that the land should continue to be owned by the people and for the people.  Behind all of this, a generous benefactor named Stanley Simpson, who owned the local sawmill and box factory, donated a big chunk of land along the waterfront to the community.

The transition began in 2000 and by the time it was finished, it had a public walkway and park along the shore of Lake Okanagan and the walkway looped around a marsh and back and past the front of the city's marina.

We walked through the beautiful, Rotary Centre for the Arts.  As we entered the building a youth orchestra appeared to be leaving and the musicians were carrying their musical instruments.  The centre featured studios and galleries, and halls which were richly adorned with works of art from Kelowna's citizenry.

Just across the street was the community's publicly owned Art Gallery.

We walked along the Artwalk and looked at mosaics, a statue and large concrete apples.

Its no wonder that Kelowna was named a Cultural Capital of Canada by the Department of Canadian Heritage in 2004.

The Cultural Centre also includes a striking statue with leaping white dolphins (or are they balugas?), the Kelowna Actors' Studio, the Kelowna Library, the Okanagan Heritage Museum, and the Okanagan Military museum and a strikingly people centred waterfront Park.

As a painter, I have to tell you that its most impressive when the visual arts, plays such a prominent place within the community's other artistic venues and helps define the values of its people.

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