Cranbrook Arts Council has a permanent new home at 1401 5 St. North and the non-profit will hold its 50th anniversary celebration here

Cranbrook Arts Council has a permanent new home at 1401 5 St. North and the non-profit will hold its 50th anniversary celebration here

Cranbrook Arts celebrating 50 years

Non-profit will celebrate historic milestone in July with art showcase and market

For decades, Cranbrook Arts has been a steadfast supporter of creative endeavours.

It has helped artists get their start and youth find their passion, and it has championed cultural and ethnic diversity.

Its reach has wound its way through many facets of the art world, from canvas arts and sculpture, to music and theatre.

This summer, the non-profit is marking its 50th anniversary by celebrating the artists and art that makes the community unique.

Cranbrook Arts will mark this milestone with a weekend of celebration. Festivities will kick off on Friday July 28 with a display of local paintings, photographs and textiles from 6 to 8 p.m. This will be followed by an afternoon artisan market on the 29th and a series of free workshops and artist demonstrations on the 30th. The workshops run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and feature the likes of button-making, needle felting, pottery and painting.

All events take place at Cranbrook Arts’s new gallery on 1401 5 St. North.

“There’s really a mix. There’s quite a bit of landscape work. I received a submission of textiles,” said executive director Kristin Teetaert. “… We’re hoping people who have never had a chance to come in here [to the new gallery], will.”

Although Cranbrook Arts and District Council was officially born on May 17, 1973, it can trace its origins back almost thirty years earlier to The East Kootenay Fine Arts and Handicrafts Association (also known as the Cranbrook Arts and Crafts Association).

The handicrafts association formed on March 13, 1945 with the objectives of creating a social community devoted to art, expanding local knowledge of creative pursuits and providing WWII veterans with something to do after they returned from their missions overseas.

In its initial years of operation, the group was headed by president J.S Allin, vice-president Ian Hind, secretary-treasurer Katherine Gringer and council members Bert Turner, Mrs. Ian Hind and Mrs. C.T Hendle. It was a well-rounded group that devoted itself to many forms of art including music, drawing, photography, woodcarving, clay modelling, weaving, stitching, toy-making, and block printing.

It was the brains behind numerous community theatre productions and musical performances. In 1947, it arranged for Vancouver’s Everyman Theatre to stop in Cranbrook on its Western tour — a troupe that included famous Canadian actors like Peggy Hassard, Arthur Hill and Murray Westgate.

It organized Cranbrook’s first International Folk Festival in 1951, which brought local cultural groups together to perform traditional song and dance from their countries of origin. Among the various groups that attended, were Welsh warrior singers, Scandinavian folk dancers, a Scottish bagpipe player, a Ktunaxa drum group and a choir who sang African-American spirituals.

READ MORE: Columbia Basin Culture Tour showing local art in Kootenay region

The association became known as Cranbrook Arts and District Council when it was incorporated as a government-registered non-profit society in 1973.

Leaders elected to this board were president Meredith Melnick, vice-president Elaine Karras, secretary Don Gilmour and treasurer Kay Shunter. Bud Abbot, Gary Anderson, Valerie Best, Fred Cawte, Lucy Fulton and Ed Mile were the directors. The council was initially multidisciplinary, but when its theatre and music branches grew large enough to break away and form their own groups, it gradually pivoted towards visual arts.

“Bud Abbot was on our board and was instrumental in starting the board. He moved over to Cranbrook Community Theatre and that became a new project to him. Things started to separate then,” explained president Yvonne Vigne.

Cranbrook Arts has added a dash of creativity to a community that was historically mostly sports-focused.

“Cranbrook, for a long time, had a reputation as a hockey town. The arts weren’t totally ignored, but in many ways, they were not a priority. What I’ve seen in the last 15 to 20 years, is that the arts in Cranbrook has really exploded,” said former board member Jenny Humphrey.

“When I came here in 1973, it was very much a desert,” she added. “The strip had no trees. It was really barren. It’s just become a more balanced town.”

“I think people are now appreciating the aesthetic value of culture more than they did at one time. That’s just natural. Cranbrook was just a little town in far east B.C. It’s grown over the years.”

Cranbrook Arts is looking forward to continuing its next chapter of community involvement now that it has its first permanent space.

Its latest home at 1401 5 St. North. is equipped with a professional gallery space, a workshop and a pottery studio. The council bought the building in 2019 and renovated the interior during the pandemic.

On May 31, the council closed its gift shop on Baker St. with the intention of relocating it to the new building. The gift shop will officially reopen at 5 St. in the fall.

Vigne said the move has given them more space to conduct classes and showcase art.

“In the gift shop, we would have a little corner that was dedicated to a focus. That was the gallery corner. We would do classes in the kitchen, this tiny cramped kitchen,” she explained.

“We often rented other spaces like the Manual Training Building at the library if we were doing something where we wanted to have a bigger class.”

The council began searching for a building as far back as 2015.

“It was very rewarding to raise the funds to purchase a building that the arts council has wanted for many years,” said Humphrey.

To submit a piece of art for the 50th anniversary show contact Art will be accepted until July 5.


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For Cranbrook Arts Council’s 40th anniversary in 2013, it held a deer decorating contest (courtesy of Jenny Humphrey)

For Cranbrook Arts Council’s 40th anniversary in 2013, it held a deer decorating contest (courtesy of Jenny Humphrey)