Touring the Columbia Basins art, culture and history

The Columbia Basin Culture Tour will take place this weekend, starting at 10 a.m. and running until 5 p.m. on Aug. 13 to 14.

The Columbia Basin Culture Tour will take place this weekend, starting at 10 a.m. and running until 5 p.m. on Aug. 13 to 14. The self-guided tour features many artists and purveyors of culture throughout the Basin. The tour was created by a steering committee, which is made up of arts, culture and heritage people. The Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) funds the committee and the tour. The committee decided that the tour would be beneficial for the basin because it would celebrate the rich historical and cultural venues as well as the many artists that live in the Basin, according to Natasha Smith, administrative assistant to the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance (CKCA).

“There are a number of culture tours across the country and because this is a fairly large region this tour was developed so people can not only tour their own communities but also make a trip, since it is over two days,” said Smith. “Spend a night in a different place and really take in lots of wonderful venues. Many of the artists don’t always have their studios open, so you get to see where and how they work and speak with them in person. The cultural sites and heritage sites do special programming and offer certain parts of their locations for free.”

The majority of Elk Valley events for the tour will be taking place in Fernie, Smith told The Free Press.

“This year we do not have any from Elkford, but Fernie has a handful. We have Kathy Stead Fine Art Studio – she is a landscape painter. We have the Fernie Arts Co-op, who always put on an awesome culture tour; they bring in some of the local artists and they are there live painting for people, and the co-op always has great refreshments and such,” she said. “The Eye of The Needle studio and gallery that was created by Fernie Forge has lots going on. There will be felt-making demonstrations, and will feature glasswork by Katherine Russell from Elkford and will have a good range of other artists there as well. There are a bunch of really fun activities for people to take in that are in the Fernie area.”

Smith is also an artist, and has been a part of the tour for eight years. She believes that the event is a great chance for both artists and tourists to interact in a positive, but relatively uncommon way.

“As an artist quite often you work independently, often you don’t have much contact with the public, even when you are doing a show. This gives artists an opportunity to really engage with people and really explain their work and the inspiration behind it and share a little bit of their space,” she said. “For some artists it can be a little daunting, but others spend a huge amount of time and work getting their studios ready and displaying all their work for the tour. I think it is a great event for both tourist and artist. The last part of a creative process is sharing, putting the work out there. Some artists make this their featured sale of the year. We have artists that display work all around their studio and homes to get ready for the culture tour. They make quite a bit of income from sales from the tour.”

Smith believes without CBT’s funding, the tour would not be a possibility.

“People pay a small registration fee,” she said. “If they signed up in time for the earlybird pricing it was $40 and regularly it is $50. If it wasn’t for the CBT the tour wouldn’t be happening.”

People who are interested in doing the self-guided tour can find hardcopy maps at tourist information centres in participating areas. Maps can also be found online at