Squamish has a well earned reputation as a destination that’s perfect for outdoor enthusiasts seeking adventure and recreation galore in Mother Nature’s back yard.
And while that is certainly true that the area is known for its stunning scenic beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities, Michelle Neilson thinks people are still missing Squamish’s true nature.
“As far as I am concerned, Squamish is an arts community,” says the president of the Squamish Arts Council. “The arts scene here is so diverse, and you can find every spectrum of the arts here in town.”
The arts community is so diverse, in fact, that there was a need for an organization like the arts council, which acts as an umbrella organization to help coordinate the scene.
Squamish continues this year as one of five Vancouver-area communities serving as venues for Vancouver Biennale, a two-year initiative celebrating art in public spaces. World-renowned artists like Brazil’s Vik Muniz have been in town creating outdoor art on a grand scale, and up-and-coming “artists in residence” have been taking part in a variety of public events celebrating creativity in all its form. But it isn't just world famous artists creating in Squamish.
If you wander the downtown area, you’ll find a variety of shops and galleries that serve as showcases for the area’s talented and unique First Nations carvers, basket weavers, drum makers and others. And Squamish venues like the Brackendale Art Gallery and Foyer Gallery regularly feature exhibits from local painters, carvers, jewelry makers and more. The weekly Squamish Farmers’ Market downtown is also a great place to find unique and beautiful works by local artists and artisans of all types.
“It’s becoming a young, progressive and edgy community,” says Neilson.
And you’ll find more than just painters and carvers in Squamish.
The town boasts an active writers’ group, talented photographers, dance schools and academies, plus a busy theatre community that presents acclaimed plays as well as holiday favourites throughout the year to appreciative audiences.
You can find live music almost every night at a Squamish bar, pub, café or lounge, where local talent play everything from blues and rock, to classical, opera, punk and metal. There’s also the occasional big name acts that take the stage at the Brackendale Art gallery or Eagle Eye Theatre, and if you haven’t tapped into your own musical potential Squamish offers a plethora of music academies, tutors and community groups that are just waiting to help you learn that instrument or find your singing voice. But there's still so much more to be done to bolster Squamish's arts and ulture scene, says Neilson. “The arts council is working on spearheading a task force that will kick start community engagement and strategic planning around the development and design of an arts centre for Squamish,” she says. “The District of Squamish has an arts centre of some kind in the oceanfront development plan. We want to have a role in this conversation, so we are kick starting it now with the hopes of pulling together a wide range of stakeholders in our community to help define the vision.”
For Neilson, it’s one more step toward showing the world the art and culture of Squamish.