A place can be what you make it, to some degree. While when you move to a place, you can not change the geography, the climate or the people who already live there, you can change your attitude.
And it was attitude which I was thinking about while I was in Kamloops recently, for an opening of an art show I was a part of.
The show is part of the Kamloops Bicycle Summit being put on by the Arnica Artist Run Centre, and includes a uniquely engineered locally-built bicycle, some films, my photography and some mixed media work involving felted wool with photos on canvas sewn onto it.
I traveled down to the show thanks to help from a few people: the great people I work with who kindly put the paper together for me that week and my parents, who were good enough to drive with me from Williams Lake to Kamloops, so I didn’t have to drive the entire way myself.
I really appreciated the opportunity to get to attend the opening, as I was involved in another bicycle art show in Williams Lake this spring, and didn’t make the opening night and have regretted it since — but that is all beside the point.
The experience was not quite what I expected, and perhaps I was naive.
My friends involved in the group show in Williams Lake are all amazing cycling enthusiasts in their own right and the art I saw from them was amazing, and there seemed to be a feeling of community and a sense of joy at bringing so many people excited about what they were doing together.
At least this is what I believe from what I saw on Facebook and from my discussions with some of them.
I think I expected a similar scene in Kamloops, with cyclists simply enjoying an evening of art associated with something they loved.
I however, experienced a slightly different version of art openings in Kamloops than what I had imagined, and while there were definitely some people there to enjoy some bike art, some seemed to have different attitudes than my small-town artsy friends.
To bring it back around to my first comments, I experienced a slight touch of (dare I say) snobbery even, while I was there, and I couldn’t help feeling a little bothered by it.
It was a strange phenomenon to me, considering Kamloops is not at all what I would consider a big city.
At one point, I felt as though I were being grilled about the place I lived, and not in a positive way.
It was as though the person questioning me thought the true test of a place was how much people appreciated art the way she did.
While I agree with her art enhances a place, it doesn’t have to be all the place is about to make it a good place to live.
And art isn’t necessarily better because it comes from a bigger place, art is expression, and can be a pretty big part of a community, even in small towns. Anyone who has been to Wells, B.C. can attest to that.
A community is created by having connection to the people and the place you are in, and I feel I have an amazing community of people in my life here in the Fort.
So while you might not call it an “art scene” I would say the community of people in my life have strong artistic sides, and I’m sure there are more “artsy” groups around. I know in Williams Lake there is a strong arts community, and many people who enjoy and appreciate all kinds of art.
While it might be nice to be able to get large groups of people together who appreciate art, and having a gallery and more regular art-focussed events would be fantastic, I also think being snobbish about art isn’t going to encourage more people to become engaged with it.
To me, art should be fun and accessible, and it should be everywhere.
In small towns, in big cities, it can still be art, and it can still be good, it just needs people who want to enjoy it.
I have lived in Victoria, Vancouver and Calgary, and traveled to beautiful cities full of art around the world, with Barcelona and San Francisco blowing me away with some of the art you can see. But I have also seen amazingly wonderful art in small places, from Wells, B.C., to tiny hill towns in Nepal and remote villages in Guatemala, the art there is no less worthy simply because the people doing it choose to live in a small place.
In terms of attitude, I would say, while I love so many things about being in larger centers, I will always appreciate the down-to-earth attitudes of small towns, where the place is what you make it, and so, I would say, is the “art scene.”