Elkford public art display aims to inspire

A new piece of public art in Elkford aims to inspire, motivate, and get you moving on your next adventure.

Located in the Elkford Community Conference Centre, Pass in the Clouds is a celebration of the small mountain town and the adventures that come with it.

“What a haven this Valley is for adventures, risk takers and for seekers of solitude,” said creator Katherine Russell, addressing the crowd on Saturday morning.

When Russell, a glasswork artist, came to the Valley seven years ago, she brought a passion for hiking with her. She described the Elk Valley as being unrivalled in its combination of remoteness, abundant wildlife, rich landscape and rugged trail networks. Home to the widest variety of coniferous tree species of any zone in BC; from red cedar to ponderosa pines, and also habitat to elk, mountain goats, cougars and more.

Traces of each of these are found in her artwork, which measures 11 feet wide by six feet high and rests in the entrance of the conference centre. It is the result of over a year of planning and six months of hands on work.

Pass in the Clouds is a mountain ridge North of Elkford in Height of the Rockies Provincial Park. It runs between White River and the Elk Valley, acting as the saddle between Mountain Cordona and Mount Abruzzi. The route, explained Russell, has been a passage for First Nations peoples for 8,000 years, travelling through to the Elk Valley and onto the Prairies.

Today, Pass in the Clouds is known as an epic trail, requiring at least three days of travel and thousands of metres of climbing.

“There’s not a lot of guidebooks or maps or signposts or parking lots when it comes to trails here,” said Russell before the unveiling.

“It’s stunning here, and it’s quiet,” she continued. “There’s so much wildlife because there’s so few people here. And that’s what makes hiking in the Elk Valley really, really special.”

Russell aimed to translate the trail onto a glass canvas, using six panels of glass, each with many pieces within.

To make the art, Russell fused layers of colour in her kiln, then printed on them with glass powder through a silkscreen. The steel frames were made by the Fernie Forge in Hosmer, a material which Russell chose to reference the industry that has founded Elkford.

The patterns made with glass powder depict the photorealistic footprints of animals and the leaves of trees.

The glasswork artist thanked the many individuals that helped shape the piece through the sharing of personal memories.

“It is my hope that this artwork can rekindle some of those memories for you, each time you walk by it,” said Russell.

“It is also my hope that this artwork can spark wonder in new hikers, inspire you to explore our valley, on foot – a pace that allows for truly seeing the fine details. Hearing the subtle sounds, being in the still quiet,” she said.

Russell thanked the Columbia Basin Trust and the Elkford Arts Council for funding the artwork, and the District of Elkford for installing it and supporting the unveiling ceremony.

This unveiling was one of many activities which took place during the Wildcat Days weekend.

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