Breathe, Take It All In - Arts & Culture

Breathe, Take It All In - Arts & Culture

The region has a well deserved reputation as a cultural hub and a haven for free-spirits. Inspired by the landscape and relative isolation, artists have been drawn here for decades to hone their craft. They followed the path of previous newcomers seeking out a peaceful place to call home, including pacifist Dukhobors nearly a century ago. Young Americans dodging the Vietnam War draft also found a welcome embrace, and their progressive counter-culture views have helped to shape the area. 

Early settlers flocked to the Kootenay Lake area in search of silver around the turn of the century. The resulting economic boom led to the creation of ornately designed Victorian-era buildings. Kaslo and Nelson’s rich architectural heritage was rediscovered and sympathetically restored during beautification projects in the 1980s, helping to create truly vibrant and colourful downtowns. Local history has been proudly preserved, with an electric streetcar along the waterfront, modern museums at the Nelson Museum, Archives & Gallery and the Langham Cultural Centre, and dozens of well maintained heritage buildings throughout the region. 

Creativity continues to flourish in the communities along Kootenay Lake. Nelson boasts extensive outdoor art installations, including a selection of annually changing sculptures along iconic Baker Street. Colourful back alley murals reward visitors who explore the nooks and crannies of downtown, while multiple galleries and artisans feature locally hand-crafted designs. The artist community of Balfour includes potters, blacksmiths and woodworkers. Further up the lake in Kaslo, you’ll discover colourful artwork, photography, clothing and handmade items along historic Main Street. 

Nelson’s relative remoteness from big cities and its status as the urban hub for the West Kootenay region has helped it become a cultural mecca. Locals will tell you that life moves on “Kootenay Time” out here, a nod to balancing lifestyle with work. Living closely with nature and embracing a routine beyond the rat race is accepted if not encouraged. This slower pace of life encourages visitors to breathe deeply, to relax, and to reconnect with themselves, others, and the natural world. 

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