It’s no secret that the Creston Valley is has deep roots in agriculture and forestry, but there is a hidden-in-plain-sight arts and culture community just waiting to be discovered, and I’ve always been quick to point it out to visitors, recommending the Creston Museum as their first stop.
“We're the one place you can go to explore how the Creston Valley came to be what it is today,” says manager Tammy Bradford. “It's filled with fascinating stories about the people who have shaped the valley — and who are continuing to shape it today.”
The museum, located in a former stone mason’s home, is filled with items connected to local history, from a cheese cutter made by IBM (yes, that IBM) to decades-old (and mildly terrifying) medical equipment to Derry the 1921 Model T one-ton truck (he still runs!) — simply, there’s something there for everyone.
“For some, it's the aforementioned stories, or a particular exhibit that really resonates with them,” Tammy says. “We have some very unique, one-of-a-kind objects that intrigue others. And for quite a few of our visitors, it's the sidewalk! I know, I know — what's so fascinating about a sidewalk? But seriously, we have one of the most interesting sidewalks you'll ever see.”
A recent partnership with the Lower Kootenay Band and Adam Robertson Elementary School students helped enhance exhibits to provide a deeper understanding of the people who have inhabited the region thousands of years.
“We are a community museum,” says Tammy. “That means our number one responsibility is to reflect the entire community — European settlers, Ktunaxa residents, people from non-European cultures. And we try to do that not just for the ‘pioneer years’, but for the entirety of the community's development, including the present. The work we've been doing over the past few years with the Ktunaxa Nation council and members of the Yaqan Nukiy community is an important part of that, of truly becoming a venue where all the people who have played, or are playing, a role in the community can share their stories and experiences.”
To learn even more about the Yaqan Nukiy community, a visit to the Heritage Centre at Legend Logos is a must!
Meet the Makers
There’s no way to pretend that the following is a comprehensive list of artists and artisans in the Creston Valley, but the Creston Valley Arts Council can easily help with that.
• Pridham Pottery Studio, located downtown, is home of potters Jeremiah and Micah Wassink creating brightly coloured pottery, in styles both functional and decorative.
• Out of town, in Canyon, Gunda Stewart’s Orde Creek Pottery is the place to see actual wood-fired pottery being made.
• I’m rather partial to a set of Blue Moon Pottery coasters I picked up several years ago at the museum’s gift shop, one of a few places in town, including the Fly in the Fibre, that offer a great selection of pieces by artists who don’t open their studios to the public.
• The downtown Creston Arts and Crafts Studio is an artist co-op, offering jewelry, candles and wall art. The quilled paper ornaments by Val van der Poel and the tiny, but highly detailed, scenes by TidBits Tales in Miniature are not to be missed!
• Finally, be sure to stop at Kunze Gallery, a stunning contemporary gallery located beside the iconic Creston Grain Silos that features an impressive rotating collection of large scale paintings, granite sculptures, blown glass, ceramics, photography textiles and more curated by well known artist Sandy Kunze.
Art the DIY Way
•The Tilted Brick Gallery is another gallery that offers professional artists an opportunity to showcase their work — but there’s more! It also runs ArtSpace, an art studio and community workshop space that provides regular classes, workshops and more taught by local artists.
• Just out of town in Erickson, Beth Swalwell’s Art Barn Studio is a bright and cheery space where she leads visitors in fibre art, paper making, painting, art journalling and much more — she’s even made paper out of denim fibre. This is a popular venue for all ages and interests — there’s no age limit on this kind of fun!
Take A Bow
Of course, no overview of Arts and Culture in Creston is complete without mentioning the very vibrant local performing arts scene.
•The award-winning Footlighters Theatre Society, which I’ve been part of since 2005, presents three or four productions annually, from musicals to drama and well-known to locally-written, at the Kootenay River Theatre (with occasional visits to Millennium Park).
•The Creston Concert Society also brings in regional and national touring companies to the Kootenay River Theatre, offering ballet, folk duos and family performances, and even large acts, such as the Symphony of the Kootenays.
So Much More
With so much going on, Creston is a great place to enjoy arts of all kinds, but also a perfect “home base” for a tour of the entire Kootenay region, so be sure to check out Kootenay Arts for more information. If sticking to the Creston area then check out our Arts & Heritage section or Event Calendar to discover the possibilities!
Freelance writer Brian Lawrence is a former editor and publisher of the Creston Valley Advance. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking and trail running, and acting in and directing productions with Creston's Footlighters Theatre Society.