By Councillor Joanna Wilson
I believe our lively arts scene is key to the ambience that attracts new families, businesses, and tourism to our community.
In the 1990s, I became aware of the newly formed “Art Walk” scene in our neighbouring cities of Sandpoint, Idaho and Nelson, B.C.
It was inspiring to walk down their streets and see the creations of local artists on sidewalks and business venues. My love of photography led me to join the Nelson Art Walk.
In 1995, I co-founded a similar Art Walk in my hometown of Creston, with about 20 artists initially interested in participating. A member of the Creston Valley Arts Council became co-coordinator, helping to locate enough venues downtown. With signage and posters, the local artists were given a visible presence in the downtown area.
By 2000, Art Walk had evolved to Art Drive, which involved artists on the East Shore. To get businesses including restaurants on board, I attended a Kootenay Lake Chamber of Commerce meeting and spoke to 15 business members about the vision of giving local artists on a public place to show their work. At its peak, there were over 60 venues and up to 80 artists involved from Yahk to Riondel.
I believe it was the success of Art Walk/Drive that led to many local art galleries being established, which still flourish today.
The Alfoldy Gallery, which predates Art Drive, was the first of its kind, and remains a model of a working art gallery drawing local and tourist clientele.
Art enriches public spaces, and most importantly, is accessible to everyone.
During my time as councillor, public art has enlarged its scope through the formation of Creston Valley Public Art Connection Society. Examples of public art can be seen in our parks, in the downtown, and in front of Town Hall, such as the donkey named “Bad Hair Day” in front of the Creston Valley Bakery.
A new sculpture is acquired annually, to continue contribution to the visible arts in Creston. In 2021, two new sculptures were purchased from the Castlegar Art Walk and installed at Millennium Park – “Steampunk Owl” and “Salmon Dance”.
Over the last several decades, Creston has also developed a new culture in the performing arts. In the 1980s, the community became involved in establishing the new school theatre, by raising funds for a grand piano and “state of the art” lighting and sound equipment. The enthusiasm of the townspeople and financial contributions from the Town of Creston and the Regional District of Central Kootenay hastened the process.
Now that Creston has a place for concerts, a lively theatrical scene has flourished along with choral societies, such as the Creston Community Band and Creston Valley Music Teachers Association.
Children were encouraged to become part of the arts scene through Focus On Youth, which is a non-competitive festival that serves as a valuable part of their education and cultural awareness.
At the Kootenay River Secondary School theatre, classes would perform in a variety of genres, including piano, strings, vocals, guitar, and other instruments, as well as dance, gymnastics, drama, and even juggling.
In the present day, the performing arts continue with public health orders in place. For example, Footlighters Theatre Society is running rehearsals for their next production. Also, the Creston Concert Society continues to have showings, albeit with smaller audiences requiring vaccine passports at the door.
There are many groups offering opportunities for community involvement in the arts. The Creston Valley Arts Council, which operates on a volunteer basis, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019.
More recently, Creston ArtSpace Collective has emerged, featuring a large art studio and community meeting work space, centrally located off Highway 3 in downtown Creston. It is becoming “home” to many visual artists, a writer’s collective, musicians, photographers, and film makers. Visit their website artspacecreston.com to learn more and join “meaningful conversations about art”.
Coun. Joanna Wilson has served with the Town of Creston since 2005, following three years as a School District 8 trustee.