Arts, Culture & Heritage

Streetcar #23

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Streetcar #23

The Nelson Streetcar is a lovely way to spend a late afternoon after a fun filled day at Lakeside Rotary Park. The streetcar travels from the Rose Garden Cafe in Lakeside Park, past the soccer fields located at the shores of the lake, and all the way to the Prestige Lakeside Resort

      

I had the great opportunity to speak with Walter Laurie, President of the Nelson Electric Tramway Society, about the history of the electric tram in Nelson. 

Walter Laurie, President of the Nelson Electric Tramway Society standing proudly in front of the car barn  Walter Laurie, President of the Nelson Electric Tramway Society standing with one of the streetcars

The city of Nelson was founded on the mining of rich mineral deposits, hidden in the mountains around the late 19th century. One of the most notable substances mined was silver which gave way to the Silver King Mine. This attracted many English investors who saw Nelson and the surrounding area as a prime opportunity to grow a strong city in the otherwise wild mountain terrain. An Englishman, who was known as Captain Duncan, had made himself a fortune off the Nelson mining industry. It was Captain Duncan who first proposed the idea of installing an electric tram to connect the community. In 1898 the first streetcar was installed at the top of Stanley St., a street that is known to be more than a little steep. As one can imagine, the late 1800’s version of Stanley St. was freshly cleared land and consisted of loosely packed dirt, making the streetcar ride a little adventurous. By the time the streetcar system was completely installed Nelson was the second community west of Winnipeg that had a streetcar system. The first community to do so was Vancouver who beat Nelson by only one year.

A historic photo of contruction of the streetcar track

The streetcar fleet had two cars that were commissioned from a British tramway company, and adopted a third from Columbus, Ohio in the 1920’s. Although the fleet only consisted of three cars they were numbered car #21, car #22, and #23, “it just sounds a little better,” Laurie says with a chuckle. 

The streetcars were beloved by the community and there are many pictures to indicate that that was true. Below is a photograph of young Nelsonites travelling to the community dance hall that was the top floor of the old boathouse. You’ll notice that back then the streetcars were open-air, with no siding or walls. Streetcar 23, which is in operation today at Lakeside Park, was modified to be enclosed to meet today’s safety standards. 

Young Nelsonites one the old streetcar travelling to the community dance hall that was on top of the old boathouse.

The push for diesel fueled buses surfaced post-war in 1949. With the expansion of paved roads, tire on pavement began to make more sense than local rails. However, the community was not fast to let go of the streetcars as they were a facet for life in Nelson during the early half of the 20th century. 

Once the bus system was fully in place, the original British commissioned streetcars were cancelled and Streetcar #23 was sold to a local veterinarian to be used as a makeshift dog kennel. The streetcar association was revived with help of Pierre Berton, who was tasked by the Canadian government to travel the length of Canada and revive communities historical features. 

Streecar #23

Streetcar #23 was refurbished and now serves it’s route that travels along the perimeter of Rotary Lakeside Park and ends at the Prestige Lakeside Resort. Take in the vibrant history of the Nelson Streetcar at the Nelson Electric Streetcar Society’s charming museum that is located to the left of the car barn that houses #23 when not in use. 

Captain driving the Streetcar #23

Find out more about Streetcar #23 here.  If you're wondering what else to do in the area visit our websiteinteractive map and digital calendar.

#findingawesome  |  www.findingawesome.ca

Historical Hotspot: Lardeau Valley Historical Centre

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Historical Hotspot: Lardeau Valley Historical Centre

Step back in time and visit the incredibly well preserved Lardeau Valley Historical Centre, about a forty minute scenic drive north of Kaslo. It showcases an extensive collection of artifacts including perfectly preserved hand farming equipment, turn of the century home goods, First Nations artifacts, and historical photos of the area and its people. 

Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism was happy to help with the evolution of the Lardeau Valley Historical Centre by helping fund the relocation of the Centre’s sign and the addition of the “Tourist Station’ which will provide tourist info outside of the Centre’s visiting hours. 

 

The Lardeau Valley is historical land to numerous First Nations tribes including the Ktunaxa, Qatmuknek, Sinixt, and Secwepemc dating back 12,000 years. A collection of artifacts, such as arrowheads and spearheads, can be found at the Centre. The collection was donated by a fellow who worked the railroad line from Grand Forks to Crowsnest Pass and collected small artifacts found along the rail line. In talking with local archaeologist Wayne Choquette about the collection, he said, “it’s a big compendium...an amazing collection.” 

Although the collection is extensive, Choquette brings up the point that the artifacts are not only from Lardeau Valley but from up and down the Kootenay region with no record of exactly where these artifacts are from. It is a rather large issue for archaeologists like Choquette whose work hinges on the locations of these finds. “Still though, an amazing collection,” says Choquette. 

The Lardeau/Meadow Creek area, like most settled towns in the Kootenays, has its roots in mining during the late 1800s. After the rush of panning for gold and other minerals ended, the region quickly became cultivated with crops and orchards. Samples of equipment used to mill and care for the land, such as an oxen yoke, are on display at the Centre. The non-motorized farming artifacts exemplify the amount of grit and sweat that it took to make a living in these mountains only 80 years ago. 

In talking with locals, it seems that it wasn't all work and no play. Roy Lake, a born and raised local of the area, told a story of another local named Hugh from back in the day who cleared many acres of land. "A tough job," Lake explained. However, Hugh always got a kick out of packing the tree stumps with a hearty amount of dynamite. "You would see them just pop off stumps into the lake. There was always a little gleam in [Hugh's] eye."

Lake has seen the area transform over the decades that he has lived there. He remembers when his father bought their first motorized vehicle, a red truck they used to transport produce. Previously, he used a horse and carriage. When Lake's father was backing up the truck one day, it started to slip over a bank. Out of instinct, Lake's father pulled up on the wheels as if they were reins and shouted out "Whoa! Whoa!" to horses that had been replaced by a motor. Lake chuckles, "Everyone was fine, and we got a story out of it." 

Although the region is small in population, Lardeau Valley is rich with colourful history and wonderful locals. Experience it for yourself at the Lardeau Valley Historical Centre. 
 

Extraordinaire Ebike Tour in Nelson BC

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Extraordinaire Ebike Tour in Nelson BC

Cemetery TrailBy Chad Hanson

You miss something when you view things through a car window. You don’t realize it until you're on a bike or in a convertible, then everything becomes a different experience. That's why my good friend Anna and I decided we would rent electric bikes in Nelson, BC to see the town, and holy smokes was that fun!

We're both fairly active but the idea of sweating all day to see the sights seems unappealing for vacation. Ebikes are simply the best way to get around that I've experienced in a long time. It's like cheating without the guilt. When that little boost kicks in everyone has the same reaction, like the joy you experienced as a child on a bike for the first time. You can’t not smile.

We started at Gerick Cycle and Ski on Baker Street to rent the Ebikes, after we grabbed our Self Guided Tour Maps from the Nelson Visitor Centre, in the old railway building that recently opened after a massive renovation. The Map is also provided in a digital form so you can see locations along the way and easily navigate your journey. Fun!

The cemetery might seem like an odd start to a bike tour; normally one would think it would be the end (rim shot). It’s at the very top of town and provides some amazing views and a peaceful setting. From there we bumped over to the top of Ward Street and got up onto the Rails to Trails path. The name says it all, this old railway route has been renovated and now incorporates some of the best views in town and beautiful foot bridges. You can follow it all the way down to the lake and Troup beach if you have time. We dropped back in around the Fairview district in town and rode down to the beautiful Rotary Lakeside Park.

Prestige Lakeside ResortThis stunning park and beach by the iconic Big Orange Bridge (locally referred to as BOB) welcomed us along with an ice cream from Rose Garden Restaurant located in the park. Kids were playing in the park along with families and couples and singles spending time on the massive lawn. Yes, it's really that storybook.

We hopped back on the bikes and headed down the lake and came across the Electric Streetcar, a beauty of a machine that has been running since 1924. We chatted with the driver Ray, a lovely fellow, and made a plan to return and experience the lakefront from that historic perspective. 

Touchstones MuseumˆWe shot up the lake towards The Prestige Lakeside Resort before heading back uptown to Touchstones, Nelson's museum of art and history. We grabbed a couple locally made gifts for friends and family, and checked out an exhibit from the inspiring Jack Shadbolt.

We had one last stop after that. Mike's Place Pub in the historic Hume Hotel and Spa for a tasty pint while we went over just how much we saw in the course of a day. Looking at the map and online it feels like we just scratched the surface. The sights and the people we met are memories we’ll carry for a very long time. It's crazy what a little boost from an electric bike will do for ya. 

 

Bringing Art to Life

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Bringing Art to Life

By John Bowden

Why does Nelson have a reputation for being Canada’s most celebrated small arts and culture town? It might have something to do with the impressive variety of public art that fills the downtown core.

It’s one thing for a city to have a selection of sculptures, but it’s another to refresh the collection on an annual basis. That’s just the case in Nelson, where a number of pieces have been installed just in time for summer.

Joy Barrett, Cultural Development Officer for the City of Nelson, oversees the artwork. “We started a partnership with Castlegar Sculpturewalk about 6 years ago, leasing a number of pieces from them each year. This allows us to support local artists and beautify our city within our budget. We feel that it helps reflect our vibrant artistic community." 

Sculpture Walk (image below) is an interactive cedar tunnel with a kaleidoscope-esque feel. The walls actually rotate 90 degrees and create a playful mix of light and shadow as you stroll through. The unmistakable scent of the woody cedar complements the hand built installation by local artists from the north end of Kootenay Lake, Argenta: Spring Shine, Christopher Petersen and Hans Winter.

Flower Power’s harmony of art and gardening is a fitting addition to Nelson. Victoria artist Illarion Gallant’s piece offers a rich texture of colours that invites viewers to consider the urban and natural environment. Located at the main entrance for town, it’s a fitting nod to Nelson’s past and present affection for community gardens.

It’s hard not to notice Kevin Kratz’s otherworldly White Sturgeon as you walk along Baker Street. Kratz, an instructor at Kootenay Studio Arts, created his interpretation of the prehistoric lake monster without detailed drawings or models. The result is a fantastical representation of the ancient fish that continues to survive against the odds in Kootenay Lake despite human encroachment.

Kate Tupper’s dazzling All Strings Attached is another fine example of the Kootenay’s reputation for artistry. Based in Nakusp, her work is distinctly feminine, with evocative heart-shaped forms and intricately woven threads giving the sculpture elegance and grace. It’s also playfully interactive, reflecting light when spun by hand.

Like a frozen statue, John McKinnon’s Wind Suite #1 is an arresting sculpture on Baker Street. The marble seems to fold over itself, curling and swirling upwards in a dance of openness and invitation. It feels alive and rooted at the same time. Based just outside of Nelson, a number of McKinnon’s other works can be found in town.

Although the aforementioned pieces are all easy to find, the committee threw a curveball with Del Pettigrew’s Red Raider. Located near the bay at Lakeside park, the bronze stalking red fox is hidden in the grasses and purposefully pitted and rough to signify the harshness of life in the wild. Can you find it? Pettigrew’s fox seems to sniff the area, poised to pounce on a moment’s notice. Hopefully the nearby ducks don’t think the fox is aiming for them! Red Raider is a permanent piece donated to the City of Nelson by Dr. Ken Muth.

This year's pieces are a nice addition to the variety of permanent installations around town. From bridges to railings, bike racks to benches, Nelson is incorporating artistic inspiration into form and function. Discover the full spectrum of this cultural capital on your next visit to Kootenay Lake. 

There are also over 23 pieces of permanent public art mapped out for you on the regions Digital Map. Do a self-guided tour around Nelson or Kaslo and discover more of our cultural strengths.

150 Reasons to Visit Nelson & Kootenay Lake

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150 Reasons to Visit Nelson & Kootenay Lake

By John Bowden

What if your birthday lasted an entire year? In Nelson and Kootenay Lake, we’re celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary with 150 suggestions to help you experience our region all year long.

Long before Canada was established in 1867, First Nations people had been residing in the Nelson area for over 5000 years. Living closely with the land, they were the first to discover the healing waters at Ainsworth Hot Springs. A visit to Touchstones Nelson is a great way to learn about this early history and how early peoples shaped the landscape.

After Confederation, early European settlers headed west, lured to Nelson by its scenic location and promises of fertile farming. Locally grown food continues to be a keystone of our identity, reflected in our popular markets and culinary creations at independently owned restaurants. The burgeoning craft beer scene in Nelson is the latest example of local flavours. Taste it for yourself on a tour of our four breweries.

Nelson’s mountain and lake scenery is often a major pull for visitors today, but it was mining on nearby Toad Mountain that brought people here in the late 1800s. As prospectors pored into town, Nelson became a major hub in the region, and was incorporated as a city in 1897.

An early bylaw required new buildings to be of stone or brick so as to avoid fires that had consumed so many other downtowns built of wood. This foresight led to a rich collection of heritage buildings that visitors enjoy today. Pick up a self-guided brochure or check out our online digital map to learn more about the hundreds of architectural gems in Nelson. And don’t miss a ride on our historic Streetcar #23!

Like Nelson, Kaslo also boasts a charming downtown with colourful buildings. The Langham Museum is one such site, and also tells the difficult story of Japanese internment during the Second World War. The two National Historic Sites (the SS Moyie Sternwheeler and Kaslo City Hall) are another legacy of the past, and provide visitors with plenty of reasons to visit the small town affectionately known as “little Switzerland”. 

Meanwhile, as Nelson grew, so too did cultural offerings and sporting interests. That heritage is alive and well today. Check out a festival, meet local artisans, visit a craft fair, or take in a live performance at the Capitol Theatre. For outdoor enthusiasts, consider a hike up Jumbo Pass, go for a trail run, mountain bike one of our trails, do yoga on the beach, raft one of our local rivers, or road cycle on our quiet roads. The options are endless!

Our close proximity to the American border meant that early holiday celebrations stretched from July 1st to 4th. The Nelson and Kootenay Lake area continued to be a magnet for those stateside during the Vietnam War. Draft dodgers famously flocked north, and their entrepreneurial abilities and counter-culture views played a prominent role in shaping the region. That energy is reflected in our live music scene, boutique shops, and wide range of local artisans.

Nelson and Kootenay Lake has diversified from its roots it mining and forestry to become a popular destination to live, work, play and visit.  Stay at the historic Hume Hotel, pitch a tent at Woodbury Resort, or relax at the iconic Kaslo Hotel, and enjoy a meal on a patio or sip a delightful cocktail.

These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg. Our list of 150 trip ideas will give you plenty of reasons to visit all year long and discover our rich heritage that is waiting for you!

150 Trip Ideas

Spring into Culture

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Spring into Culture

By John Bowden

We’ve all heard that April showers bring May flowers. So while Mother Nature does her rainy thing, it’s the ideal time to head indoors and explore Nelson and Kootenay Lake’s celebrated cultural reputation.

Touchstones Museum building framed by spring blossoms.Touchstones Nelson has a pair of attention grabbing exhibitions running until late May. “Edge of the Light” is a cabinet of curiosities like collection from local artist Tanya Pixie Johnson. Re-imagining humans and other species through figures, paintings and other oddities, it’s a trippy Tim Burton-esque experience not to be missed. 

In comparison, the exhibition “Geo. A. Meeres, Nelson, BC” is a more traditional gallery experience. Featuring a stunning selection of black and white photos, watercolours and hand tinted photos, it offers a unique glimpse into the early 20th century past of Nelson and the surrounding area.

It’s just a hop skip and a jump over to Oxygen Art Centre in downtown Nelson. There are all sorts of workshops lined up for the spring, including Intuitive Painting, Drawing Courses and Folk Band Basics. 

Performers on the Capitol Theatre stage.A block up from historic Baker Street is Nelson’s prized Capitol Theatre. With its art deco accents, spacious seating, wonderful acoustics, and a selection of local beers and gourmet chocolates at intermission (!), it’s a cultural treasure. Upcoming shows include music by PIGS (Pink Floyd tribute band), Sultans of String, and Completely Creedance, the play Getting to Room Temperature, and dance spectacle Glory. Film screenings and other offerings are also featured on their website.

But, don't forget to attend a film at our beautiful, heritage, state-of-the-art community movie theatre - the Civic Theatre. Hot releases, art films, family shows and local film-makers fill the screen all year round. 

The Langham Cultural Centre in Kaslo, BCThe Langham Cultural Centre in Kaslo is another site worth visiting. In celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary, they are showcasing the History of the Earl Grey Pass Trail until the end of April. Using historic maps and photos, oral stories and a “Then and Now” video, it reveals the rich history of the hiking trail at the northeast end of Kootenay Lake.

And when the sun pokes out, a walk around downtown Nelson or Kaslo reveals a surprising array of sculptures, murals and other cultural creations worth checking out. Visit Nelson and Kootenay Lake Tourism’s recently launched online digital map to find all the key sites, while the online events calendar lists all the goings on in the area. 

No matter the weather, the spring is an ideal time to explore the lively culture of Nelson and Kootenay Lake.

Isn't Heritage Week Every Week in Nelson and Kaslo??

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Isn't Heritage Week Every Week in Nelson and Kaslo??

By John Bowden

Downtown Nelson BC Heritage BuildingsWith over 350 historic buildings in Nelson alone, the idea of a Heritage Week almost seems redundant in Nelson, Kaslo and along Kootenay Lake. It feels like every week is full of heritage, arts and culture here.

But everyone likes an excuse to celebrate right? Good news! Nelson, Kaslo and Kootenay Lake (and the rest of BC) will actually feature two back-to-back Heritage Weeks this February.

BC Heritage Week runs from February 13-19, followed by National Heritage Week from February 20-26. The motto this year is “My Canada!”, appropriate for the country’s 150th anniversary.

Nelson’s local museum Touchstones will be focusing their efforts on the latter week. There will be free admission from February 21-26 plus some great feature events.

The museum presents Nelson Family Heritage Talks on February 21 at 7pm, where Nelson locals will discuss their family history in the Kootenays.

If films are more your thing, check out the documentary “Hobnails and Hemp Rope” on February 22 at 7pm.

Touchstones will also be holding a special Heritage Week exhibition titled “Amy Bohigian: Arc”. The museum itself is a must-see for those with even the most passing interest in architecture and history. Formerly a post office, the majestic building is a sight in its own right.

Live music in the Library Lounge of the historic Hume HotelThe venerable Hume Hotel sits directly across from the museum and is another worthy stop. Don’t miss the Library Lounge inside. It’ll transport you back to another time with its finely grooved panels, dark wood bar, and distinctive ceiling. If you can snag a window table, you can gaze upon both Touchstones and Nelson's historic Court House anchoring downtown's main intersection.

Beyond these feature events and sites, Nelson oozes history and heritage at every turn. Nowhere is this character more noticeable than downtown Baker Street. 

If you stroll up and down Nelson’s historic main street, you might think it’s always looked this way. Sadly, this wasn’t always the case.

Decades of renovations led to a smorgasbord of architectural styles by the 1970s. The result wasn’t exactly pretty. Baker Street had lost much of its charm.

Fortunately, local merchants and civic leaders banded together to right this wrong, and began a coordinated effort to peal back the layers of questionable design. More than $3 million was spent to restore the impressive buildings that you can see today.

With more heritage buildings per capita than any other city in the province, Nelson's reputation as the “Heritage Capital of BC” is appropriate. But it’s not just the buildings that are deserving of one’s attention. Inside the buildings there is a full spectrum of arts and cultural events. For instance, the Capitol Theatre has it's own historic story and today is the main stage for popular performances from around the world.

The historic Kaslo HotelNelson’s downtown offers an eclectic variety of retailers and restaurants with their own flair. Tasteful vintage shops sit next door to new and used bookstores, while bustling cafes tempt pedestrians at every turn. Boutique designers and top-notch gear shops also line the downtown, with some boasting interiors that match their lavish exteriors. 

Just up the lake, Kaslo is celebrating Heritage Week with a guided heritage walking tour on Saturday February 18. Starting at 11am from the Kaslo Legion, it will include a number of open houses and sites that correspond with the new Nelson & Kootenay Lake Tourism digital online map. Make sure to also check out the SS Moyie, the world's oldest intact steamwheeler, the beautifully restored Langham Cultural Centre, and a stroll along historic main street with a number of distinctive buildings including the stately Kaslo Hotel

Grab a copy of the brand new Heritage brochure and create your own self-guided tour of the region! Our digital map will help you locate and get information on the many Heritage Sites across the region. 

Get Yer Live Music Fix Before Festival Season!

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Get Yer Live Music Fix Before Festival Season!

By John Bowden

Dreaming of festival season? Wishing you were relaxing in the sun with a cold beverage and listening to live music?

We haven't quite figured out how to fast forward time, but we've got the next best thing for music lovers. Local acts and some of Canada's most revered indie rockers are descending on Nelson and the local area over the next few months.

The Rural Alberta Advantage have squeezed in a date to Nelson’s lively Spirit Bar on February 27 as part of their Western Canadian tour. Robin Hatch has joined the band, replacing original member Amy Cole, while drummer Paul Banwatt and lead singer/guitarist Nils Edenloff are still on board. Expect their high tempo gritty rock and roll to continue with cuts from their upcoming album.

Head to Nelson a couple of days ahead of time and catch some local talent during the Blues, Brews &BBQ fundraiser on February 25th in support of Kootenay Co-Op Radio (KCR). Featuring roots and blues luminaries from Nelson and afar, the event has sold out the past three years.

Kootenay Music Awards March 10The 5th annual KCR Music Awards will be held at Spirit Bar on March 10. Featuring a variety of local performers, the local event is a celebration of original music from the Kootenays. Awards will also be given out in a number of categories.

The beat goes on when Vancouver’s Mother Mother pays a visit to Nelson on March 21 as part of their No Culture Tour. They’ll be playing tunes from their newly released album before finishing the tour in Vancouver for five (!) straight shows.

Fernie’s Shred Kelly rocks the Spirit Bar on April 1, bringing their high-octane “Stoke Folk” sound to help close out the ski season. There’s no such thing as a quiet dance floor with these guys.  

Alt-country rockers Elliott Brood visit Nelson on April 29. Much like the RAA, the Toronto based trio has attracted a rabid fan base and are sought after festival headliners. Playing in support of their latest album Work and Love, they’re known for delivering a rousing, foot stomping show.

The Capitol Theatre has live music performances year round. As Nelson's biggest live theatre venue, in a stunning historic building, you can be assured there is something playing, or coming up in the next few days to tickle your musical intrigue.

The crowd at Kaslo Jazz Festival 2016.Although the popular Kaslo Jazz Etc. Summer Music Festival isn't until the August Long Weekend, keep an eye on their website for lineup announcements. With arguably the most scenic backdrop in Canada (including a floating stage!), this long-running festival blends natural beauty with cultural talent. Stay "tuned" for details!

Kaslo also offers up regular live music through the year at the popular Bluebelle Bistro & Beanery and the Kaslo Hotel. The Langham Cultural Centre frequently hosts touring acts, including the Slocan Ramblers on February 28

Bloom Nightclub at the Savoy Hotel in Nelson features a steady roster of live acts too. Even if you don’t have tickets for the perennially sold out Shambhala Festival, you can still get a taste of it at Bloom on a regular basis.

For a full list of performances in the Nelson and Kootenay Lake area check out the Events Calendar. With a stellar roster of indoor shows over the next few months, festival season can wait just a little longer.

The Langham Cultural Society’s Expansive Vision

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The Langham Cultural Society’s Expansive Vision

Kaslo, the dreamy village on Kootenay Lake, is home to a mere 1,000 full-time residents. In summer, tourists can grow the number up to five times that as people flock to festivals such as the Kaslo Jazz Fest, come to experience the best in backcountry experiences, and to take in the incredible, jaw dropping scenery.

The Langham Cultural Society is at the Heart of Kaslo

At the heart of this village lies the Langham Cultural Society. The Langham offers an opportunity to experience excellence in the visual, performing, and literary arts and cultural heritage not only to Kaslo, but the entire Nelson Kootenay Lake area, providing a multicultural dimension to our region.    

An award-winning Canadian Heritage site, the Langham has housed a bottling plant, a bank and boat builders over its 120 year old history.

During World War II, 80 Canadians of Japanese descent were interned here. Finally, since 1974, in its latest incarnation, the Langham is a cultural centre and home to a Japanese Canadian Museum, two galleries, a small rural 80-seat theatre, fourteen artist studios, and a multi-purpose room for classes and workshops.

The Langham Belongs to the Wider World

The Langham has played an important role in preserving the history of Japanese Canadian internment in Canada during the Second World War. Its small commemorative museum tells the story of how the Canadian Government of the day confined Canadian citizens of Japanese descent during the war years. Thousands of Canadians were interned in small ‘ghost towns’ in BC’s interior after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in Hawaii in 1942. Kaslo was one of the many towns in BC which received large numbers of Canadians of Japanese descent. Over a thousand arrived on the shores of Kootenay Lake in the winter of 1942. In the 1980’s the Redress Movement was the final phase within the Japanese Canadian community’s struggle for justice and recognition as full citizens of this country. They asked for a review and amendment of the War Measures Act and relevant sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms so that no Canadian would ever again be subjected to such wrongs. On September 22, 1988 Prime Minister Mulroney signed the Redress Agreement. This agreement is a prime example of a minority's struggle to overcome racism and to reaffirm the rights of all individuals in our Canadian democracy. With a strong commitment and encouragement from the Langham Cultural Society committee, the Village of Kaslo became the first municipality in Canada to offer an official apology to the Japanese Canadians in 1988.

“The Langham belongs to the world,” says Maggie Tchir, executive director of the Langham, “It belongs not just to Kaslo and Kootenay Lake but to the wider region and beyond. People from all over the world come to the Langham and by sharing our stories, the Langham, in turn, helps to sustain the dynamic cultural expression which thrives in the wider community and also lives at the Langham.”

To that end, the annual Asian Canadian Heritage Month celebrates Canadian Asian culture every May.  And the current exhibition, “High Muck-a-Muck: Playing Chinese,” runs until July 3, 2016, is an award-winning new media digital installation about Chinese immigration to British Columbia. It explores Chinese immigration and settlement in British Columbia which first began in large numbers in the 1850’s during the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush and continues to our current time. The exhibition was created by a team of Nelson and Vancouver artists including Nicola Harwood, and Fred Wah, former Poet Laureate of Canada, along with artists / performers, Bessie Wapp and Thomas Loh and composer Jin Zhang. Significant artistic contributions also came from Hiromoto Ida, Tomoyo Ihaya, Phillip Djwa, as well as many community members who contributed oral histories and stories, including Cameron Mah and Lawrence Mar.

The Langham’s Asian Series has a number of engaging talks and workshops coming up this summer. Poet Laureate, Fred Wah gave the first talk of the third annual Cafe Langham - Inspired Ideas Speaker Series titled, “Learning How to Swear Poetry in Chinese,” and in July, August and September there will be talks and workshops exploring The Art of Chinese Tea (Gong Fu Cha), Japanese and Chinese gardens, the immigration of the Chinese to the West Kootenay, and performances of dance and theatre by the celebrated multi-disciplinary Canadian actor, dancer and writer, Mark Kunji Ikeda from Calgary. He will also be leading a master class and youth class in movement and the imagination. His 2 performances of SANSEI: THE STORYTELLER, will be performed at the end of August.

Focus on Kaslo, Inside and Out

As the Langham moves into its 42nd year, the foundational commitment to the stewardship of this award-winning heritage building continues to build dynamic arts and cultural programming that both nods to its heritage elements and expands outward to invite the world to come for a visit.

In general, countless volunteer hours have been an ode to the Langham’s strength and perseverance, showing so clearly what commitment and dedication to a worthy cause can create. Like so many things in Kaslo, such as the Kaslo Jazz Festival, May Days, or the SS Moyie Sternwheeler, hard work and single-minded focus ensure extraordinary things can happen in this idyllic rural village setting.

The Langham in 2016 has reached a point where the foundations have been set. Engaging programming is now a standard. Venturing beyond Kaslo into the region, and even further to embrace British Columbia and beyond, the Langham offers to tell her story to the wider world.

Visit the Langham this Summer

If you can make a visit to the Langham this summer, do it. Seeing “High Muck-a-Muck:  Playing Chinese” and visiting the Japanese Canadian Museum is worth the visit alone. But the Langham is so much more. This cultural centre with its theatre, galleries and museum programs is not just an award-winning heritage site, but is also a vital part of Kaslo and the West Kootenay’s future.

“The Langham is not just a wonderful old heritage building. It is also a place of deep memories and the celebration of the creative imagination and human resilience.  It is a source of continual inspiration for many”.  A must see on your travels.

Amy Bohigian - Stories Worth Telling

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Amy Bohigian - Stories Worth Telling

Amy behind the camera

 

Local filmmaker Amy Bohigian’s background in community education winds its way through her story and ties together disparate threads of a Master’s from Harvard, an infectious positive spirit, and her choice of projects to pursue.

Her deep love of story is the framework. Starting with her introduction to Nelson, through the eyes of her partner, local poet Jane Byers, who was writing  in Nelson captivating Amy with her descriptions of the town and its people in letters home. As Amy says, she “got to know the flavour of Nelson through Jane’s letters and through her eyes: about the people, what was going on here, the opportunity.”

With an introduction like that, I imagine it wasn’t possible to stay away for long.

They regrouped and figured out all the details in (appropriately) Toronto, leaving their jobs and making the decision that Nelson would be their new home.

But here’s where it gets really cool. Amy was not a filmmaker in Toronto. She was an alternative education youth director at the YMCA.

A career that had taken her from urban schools in San Fransisco, to a Boston based girls juvenile detention centre, to today, the focus consistently on community building and education, led her to Nelson. 

Nelson as a community captures a zeitgeist, a vibe, that is hard to put into words. Amy nails it:

“Nelson provides a framework, it opens doors and helps get businesses started.” There’s a network here of mentors, friends and community organizations to support people with a dream. Nelson is, above all else, accessible. It’s that entrepreneurial spirit in Nelson, “That feeling of ‘Let’s just start.” 

“Let’s just help this person start something”

And so it was that Amy came to Nelson, took part in the newly developed Digital Arts program and got an advanced graduate certificate in film.

Now, as owner of Watershed Productions, she has brought a new generation to filmmaking, having run the Film Program for youth for 10 years, teaching her love of visual storytelling to kids who then take that energy and knowledge into the community and help build our community, one child, one new filmmaker at a time.  

Since moving here, Amy has felt that the entire community fosters success. “Everyone wants everyone to succeed,” she says, “everyone wants you to just try new things.” 

A good part of how and why the community works this way is woven into Amy’s attitude. Since arriving here, she has done nothing but foster that attitude through the film program, mentorship of filmmakers, and in her role as Cultural Ambassador in 2013.

Nelson began the Cultural Ambassador program to cement how strong we as a commmunity support the arts and culture. During her reign she towed the line between upholding Nelson as a cultural and arts centre while also embuing the title with her characteristic creative and fun energy. As Amy says, “the Cultural Ambassador program is a celebration of what Nelson is about.”

A large thanks needs to go to Amy’s mom, who sewed a large “beauty pagent” style sash for Amy to wear to all official Cultural Ambassador functions.

This sash has now been passed down from Ambassador to Ambassador, becoming an integral part of the honour.

Dreamers & Dissidents — A Community’s Story Told in Images

Amy’s work is mission-driven, bringing community stories alive through film. Her biggest project to date is a film series for the Knowledge Network called “Dreamers and Dissidents” which she pitched to Knowledge Network executives along with 20 other filmmakers. 

Of the twenty, about half had a connection to the Kootenays, the other half came with a genuine interest in the subject matter and all had a long list of credentials.

They were genuinelly authentically excited when Amy won the bid.

“This project pushed me in just the right ways,” she says, explaining that though she didn’t know what would resonate with the Knowledge Network, she knew that the series of stories to be told through the archival photographs was rich, that each story tells a different aspect of who and what we are. The excitement in the project is contagious. The “stuff was rich; really rich and rewarding,” she notes.

And the project came with mentorship in the form of Knowledge Network executive producer Murray Battle. 

The Knowledge Network invested in the Kootenays and also invested in Amy as a filmmaker. “Murray was available to talk to, to guide me through my creative process, she says, speaking of his laser sharp focus and mentorship. 

Along with the mentorship from the executive producer, about one year into the project, the story editor joined the process adding yet another level of mentorship and professionalism to the project that Amy acknowledges as a huge benefit. 

Mission Driven Clients Who Want to Change the World

And the future? Amy has dipped into New Media, producing a video installation including showings at Oxygen Art Centre and Touchstones Museum, which uses film as a medium to explore community and our connections to each other. 

About whether she needs to venture from Nelson to really tap into bigger projects, “The big film industry for me is here.” And so it seems. Her passion for putting her heart into something because she believes in it, for wanting to tap the potential that exists where she lives means that there is a depth and breadth of projects for her here in Nelson far into the future.

And, as she tackles bigger and bigger projects, she helps bring the news about Nelson as Arts and Culture capital of Canada to a wider audience. On stage in Vancouver with Sheila Rogers in September 2015, she proudly wore her sash, proclaiming to the world the message of community, trust and creative evolution that keeps Nelson weird and creatively vibrant today and into the future.

  • Amy wearing the sash: Image Credit: Sam Van Schie Photo
  • Amy paddling: photo courtesy of the Knowledge Network
  • Amy behind the camera coutesy of Watershed Productions

 

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