Kelowna Art Community
Kelowna is known internationally for its stunning beaches, golf courses, and award-winning wineries. But the Okanagan’s biggest city, awarded the 2004 “Cultural Capital of Canada” title, has a burgeoning arts and culture scene featuring exhibits, lectures, incredible performances from some of the world’s top artists, and more.
Kelowna was not always a cultural hub. A stroll through the city’s growing Cultural District, located in the downtown core, hints at the area’s humbler—and literal—roots. On Ellis Street sits the Laurel Packinghouse, the oldest and largest standing fruit house of its kind in the province. The Laurel is now home to the BC Orchard Industry Museum and the BC Wine Museum, and remains a standing testament to a booming orchard industry that today remains one of the city’s economic drivers. Indeed, only blocks away is a modern showcase of the region’s fruit-bearing impact—the headquarters for Sun-Rype, a manufacturer and distributor of Okanagan fruit snacks and beverages that sees over $130 million revenue per year.
But today, arts and culture define Kelowna more than ever: a UBC study revealed, in 2009, that Kelowna’s creative sector was responsible for 1199 direct jobs, generating $37.8 million in annual wages, and a total economic impact of $143.8 million. With boutique shops and cafes, galleries and museums, theatre and dance, Kelowna has tons to offer the creative aficionado.
To get started, take a tour of the Cultural District, a six-block area once the center of the Okanagan’s fruit-packing efforts. You’ll see sculptures, beaches, theatres, museums, and other important relics of Kelowna’s past and present. For a tour pamphlet with more information and the route, see http://www.kelowna.ca/CM/AssetFactory.aspx?did=13022.
Art and culture lovers, see below for our suggested places to visit, both within and outside the Cultural District.
Theater, Music, Dance & Performance
Kelowna Community Theatre
Kelowna Community Theatre (KCT), first opened in 1962, is now one of the BC Interior’s largest performance venues. With over 250 shows per year—from local productions to big-name speakers and everything in between—you’re sure to find something of interest. Catch a performance by Ballet Kelowna or Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, both of whom call the Community Theatre home. Take part in a live taping of CBC’s hit “The Irrelevant Show.” Or hear a talk by some of the world’s most renowned educators—participants have included former Daily Planet host Jay Ingram, New York Times best-selling author Dan Buettner, and world-famous Canadian Astronaut Colonel Chris Hadfield. See the City of Kelowna’s website, www.kelowna.com, for event schedules.
Founded in 2002, Ballet Kelowna (BK) is the only professional dance company in BC’s Interior, and performs for more than 10,000 people per year. You’ll find a wealth of original shows, many choreographed by BK’s Artistic Director and CEO, Simoen Orlando, a former dance member of both Ballet BC and The National Ballet of Canada. BK, in partnership with local community organizations, also offers unique training and outreach programs—IN MOTION, for example, allows dancers of any age to learn from and work with well-known instructors. For more information, including show schedules and pricing, visit www.balletkelowna.ca.
Kelowna Actor’s Studio
If you’re interested in high-quality theatre or musical productions, then drop by the Kelowna Actor’s Studio (KAS), the city’s pre-eminent theatre company. Since 2003, the award-winning studio has produced over 76 major shows, many of them well-known Broadway performances. From A Christmas Story to Chicago to Anne of Green Gables to Rocky Horror Show, to name just a few, there’s something for every interest and age group. KAS is a full entertainment venue, with a 230-seat theatre, including 91 dinner seats with full service and a licensed bar. Have a child or teenager with an itch for acting? The Actor’s Studio also offers classes and camps in musical theatre, acting, and improv—the perfect way to get involved with and learn more about this dynamic art. For show schedules, camp information, and ticket prices, check out www.kelownaactorsstudio.com.
Art & Galleries
It’s no surprise that artists and art lovers have flocked to Kelowna, found in one of the most beautiful valleys in the world. Discover a variety of public, private, and commercial galleries featuring painting, sculptures, pottery, photography, and even experimental projects, among others.
PRIVATE ART GALLERIES
Alongside the public galleries are a plethora of private and commercial offerings. On 1290 Ellis Street is Hambleton Galleries (hambletongalleries.com), the first of its kind in BC’s Interior and a favorite spot for anyone interested in Canadian arts and culture. Here you’ll find an assortment of work—including original paintings, stone sculptures, ceramics, photography, and glass works—from some of Canada’s leading artists, contemporary and historical alike. Just down the road sits Ellis Art Studios, an 8000-square-foot studio for emerging and established artists. ARTE Funktional (http://artefunktional.com) offers a relaxing atmosphere two blocks over, at 1302 St. Paul Street, and focuses on architectural art, specifically the fusion of artistic design and function. Vibrant Art (http://www.vibrandtart.com), found at 1296 Cannery Lane, is home to six resident artists. Buy one-of-a-kind pieces, take part in art workshops, and see what’s available in the Karmyc Bazaar gift shop.
Further South, in Pandosy Village, are three more galleries. Representing a number of local, regional, and international artists is Gallery 421 (www.gallery421.ca). On offer: original oils, acrylics, stone carvings, blown glass, and more. Established in 1984 and owned by Martina Kral since 2009, the Tutt Art Galleries (www.tuttartgalleries.ca) represent regional, national, and international artists whose work is found in public, private, corporate, and government collections worldwide. Tutt Galleries rotates artwork features each month, so drop by to see some incredible pieces by internationally renowned and celebrated artists. SOPA Fine Arts Gallery (www.sopafinearts.com), located a block west on Pandosy Street, presents engaging, thought-provoking works, including paintings, sculptures, and assemblage works. SOPA features a new exhibition starting the first Thursday of each month.
There are some collections worth seeing outside downtown Kelowna. At 250 Reynolds Road, near the airport, you’ll find indoor and outdoor work by Geert Maas, an internationally acclaimed artist who works in two and three dimensional, specifically in sculpture, painting, reliefs and medallic art. If you enjoy a combination of art and scenic landscapes, then visit Barn Gallery (www.barngallery.ca) nestled among orchards in beautiful Lake Country, just north of the airport. Inside the renovated 80-year-old horse barn, you’ll find a collection of canvases, ceramics, sculptures, and jewelry from 30 local artists, established and emerging alike. Across the William R. Bennett Bridge is the New Moon Gallery (www.newmoonartgallerykelowna.com/). Stop by for some tea while you browse a varied collection of original artwork, including paintings, photography, sculptures, wood-turned bowls, pottery, and jewelry.
Established in 1982 and winner of Okanagan Life Magazine’s The Best Art Store in 2012, Picture Perfect and Perpetual Blooms (http://picture-perfect-kelowna.com) is a family-owned custom framing and art gallery shop. Picture Perfect, located on Lawrence Avenue, specializes in original Okanagan artwork, decorator prints, posters, and art cards, and offers high-end frames and professional services. Drop by and talk with a staff that collectively has over 100 years of industry experience.
PUBLIC ART GALLERIES
Kelowna Art Gallery
Founded in 1976, the Kelowna Art Gallery now features over 814 permanent art pieces and, in 2014, welcomed 16,000+ visitors. Like the neighboring Rotary Centre, the Art Gallery features a variety of exhibitions: in the past, an interactive “Back to the 80s” feature or the eclectic Artist’s Garden Project. There’s also available art classes, camps, Family Sundays, public tours, and an art lab for people who want hands-on experience. A slew of events, including public talks and presentations, will grow your knowledge of the arts. If you’re flying out of the city, check out the work of a local artist prominently displayed on the 40-foot-long wall in the Departures area of Kelowna International Airport. The Kelowna Art Gallery is located at the corner of Cawston Avenue and Water Street. See kelownaartgallery.com.
Alternator Gallery of Contemporary Art
If you’re interested in art that transcends the traditional, then drop by the Alternator Gallery on Cawston Avenue. Since 1989, the Alternator has worked with emerging local and Canadian artists dedicated to alternative, experimental projects that both challenge and delight the creative community. You’ll find satellite, site-specific, performative, and interactive exhibitions. What’s uncovered by looking deeper into machines and data-collection, a family photograph, or printmaking? Find out at the Alternator Gallery, located next door to the Kelowna Art Gallery (see above). Check www.alternatorcentre.com for more details.
Rotary Centre for the Arts
The Rotary Centre (RCA), opened in 2002, is a world-class venue celebrating Kelowna’s expanding arts and culture scene. Located in the heart of the city’s Cultural District, the RCA lives in the historical Growers Supply Building, which has since been enhanced with modern amenities: a studio, rehearsal and small retail spaces, and even a delicious bistro. Check out the art, photography, and sculpture exhibits. Come to a concert, performance, or engaging lecture. Try your hand at a variety of activities, including painting, pottery—even drumming. Whatever your interest, this modern arts and performance centre has something for everyone. The Rotary Centre can be found on Cawston Avenue, near to the Kelowna Art Gallery and Alternator Gallery. Check out rotarycentreforthearts.com to learn more.
Prospera Place features shows from the world’s top entertainers, including Bryan Adams, The Tragically Hip, Diana Krall, Aerosmith, Hedley, ZZ Top, Russell Peters, Jerry Seinfeld, and Sting. Prospera is also home to the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets, winners of the 2004 Memorial Cup, and runners-up in 2009 and 2015. The Rockets have developed several premier NHL players, including Shea Weber, Alex Edler, Tyler Myers, Luke Schenn, Sheldon Souray, Jamie Benn, Josh Gorges, and Duncan Keith. Check out Prospera’s website to learn more: www.prosperaplace.com.
Okanagan Symphony Orchestra
Since its inception in 1959, Okanagan Symphony Orchestra (OSO) has grown to become the third largest professional symphony orchestra in BC. Treat yourself to a Masterwork Series show, featuring a guest artist and music from a variety of world-famous composers, including Dvorak, Sibelius, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Ravel, Beethoven, and Bach. OSO is also heavily involved with the community through its Outreach and Education programs—the Okanagan Symphony Youth Orchestra (OSYO), for example, brings together youth to learn from and train with seasoned players throughout the season. See www.okanagansymphony.com.
Parks Alive! produces over 500 events a year suitable for the entire family—including live concerts, arts-based activities, and performances from locals and world-class professionals. Have fun in some of Kelowna’s best parks and outdoor venues.
Live Entertainment Venues . . . and more
Those looking for a night on the town will find lots to choose from. The Minstrel Café, located on Lakeshore Road, offers live music on Wednesday and Saturdays. Or visit Blue Gator on Lawrence Avenue, which hosts as assortment of local gigs. Treat yourself to the pub scene, including the Grateful Fed, O’Flannigans, and Fernando’s on Bernard Avenue; Tonics Pub & Grill and The Train Station Pub on Ellis Street; and Roses Waterfront Pub on Water Street. Further east on Harvey Avenue is Dakoda’s Sports Bar & Grill, who feature a live professional comedian every weekend. If you’re going across the bridge, stop by West Kelowna’s Whiski-Jack’s Pub to see some live entertainment.
By Rhys Mahannah.