Artist Claire Singleton of Endako is the new artist in residence at the Fort St. James National Historic Site. Singleton's fascination with history and traditional lifestyles is a perfect fit for the historic site and she'll be spending two days a week at the site for the rest of the site's season. Ruth Lloyd/Caledonia Courier

Artist in residence

If you were to stop in and visit the Fort St. James National Historic Site this summer, you may be surprised.

If you were to stop in and visit the Fort St. James National Historic Site on a Tuesday or Wednesday this summer, you may be surprised.

You could come across a working artist – the new artist in residence at the site for the summer – Endako painter Claire Singleton.

The program is not just a surprise for visitors, it was also a pleasant surprise to the new Visitor Experience Product Development Officer for the site, April Hilland.

Hilland had been hoping to develop an artist in residence program for the site, but was expecting to have to conduct a search to find an appropriate artist who was interested.

However, one day Singleton stopped in at the historic site and got to talking with Hilland about the possibility of doing some painting at the site.

“It was kismet; it was amazing,” said Hilland. “I’m so excited.”

Singleton was just as pleased as Hilland about the arrangement, as she has a keen interest in painting history and has been working on personal projects for years which involve painting or other art forms depicting historical places and writing combined.

“I’m a story-artist, I record community,” explained Singleton. “You’re not doing these things because you want to make money, you’re doing it because your interested in the history.”

As a person who has always been fascinated by the past, Singleton herself is an interesting source of historical information. She lives in Endako without running water and power and uses her dog to sled in her supplies each winter.

“I like to live what I do,” she said, meaning she likes to live history in order to learn from it. “If I can somehow glean from that and transfer (this) through my work.”

Singleton is a living example of the benefit of following your dreams, as she speaks passionately about her work and the path she has chosen, which while she admits it has been difficult, the rewards are significant.

“It’s all about attitude,” she said. “You can make it work if you want to.”

Singleton will be working and staying on site at the park Tuesdays and Wednesdays all season (except for a short break in August), working on pieces for a show to present at the in-season grand opening of the “Stranger’s and Swan’s Down”’ visitor centre exhibit.

She is painting buildings and interpreters on site and will also be developing three workshops to offer during the season. Workshop ideas include creating mini-sketches in the manner of early cartographers in watercolour, creating three-dimensional models of the fish-house in paper, and creating animal models looking at the role of animals in the way of life in the old Fort.

For more information on the artist in residence program or the upcoming workshops, contact April Hilland at 250-996-7191 ext. 27.