I met with Caelen Starblanket-Larocque and Gillian Redwood in The Small Gallery, Redwood’s studio-gallery just off Broadway behind the General Store. The dark-painted door opened into a small room filled with the vibrant colours of Redwood’s latest series of painting. Over the threshold of the wee show space in the next room was the working area where the painter worked on her pieces. It was in this lively artistic space that we sat down to discuss art in the area, and particularly “Your Creative Spirit” workshops they are currently offering out at Halcyon Hot Springs.
The local hot springs were just one thing that Starblanket-Larocque, a musician, fell in love with the when they visited the area a few years back.
“We knew we wanted to move here when we came here three and a half years ago,” he said, drawing parallels between where they were living in Italy and the geography of Nakusp. The climate and landscapes were very similar, making them feel very much at home right away.
Although they were happy to discover that they spent less on heating their home in the Canadian winter, they have both found it challenging to live here in terms of finding a market for what they do.
There must have been a “eureka” moment recently, because they are now offering “Your Creative Spirit” spa weekends for women, as well as weekly art workshops on Wednesdays this autumn.
Starblanket-Larocque and Redwood are incorporating the many and diverse talents of local people into the weekends as possible. In that spirit, Barb MacPherson will be giving a talk about local herbs and Terri McLeod will be teaching a yoga class.
“Not all weekends will be for women only,” Redwood added, saying that the first few were for women only, to see what appeal that may have.
Starblanket-Larocque explained that it’s about offering women a space where they can feel relaxed without the concerns that can come with a mixed group, and drew parallels between the success that the fitness franchise Curves has achieved by creating women-only workout facilities.
“Not that we’d be offering a meat-market atmosphere, [if we opened it to men and women]” Starblanket-Larocque said, chuckling.
Although the weekend might make a special gift for someone, both Starblanket-Larocque and Redwood are hoping the Wednesday art workshops they are offering will be accessed by more people, particularly locals.
“It includes lunch and a dip and music and materials are included,” said Starblanket-Larocque who knows it’s a bargain for the price of $55 per Wednesday.
The duo hope to run the Wednesday classes until Christmas, when they will be taking a break over the winter months.
The creative days being put on by Starblanket-Larocque and Redwood are independent of Halcyon hot springs in terms of business, but the enthusiasm is infectious on both sides. Chef Tyler Leeson has developed a light lunch menu for the art days, and both Starblanket-Larocque and Redwood find the hot spring waters stimulate their creativity.
“The thing is everyone is creative in their life,” Starblanket-Larocque said, “I want to share that with people.”
For Redwood, the way she learned to paint, in a very free and expressive way, is what she wants to give other people the opportunity to experience.
“I realize now that people really want [that], so in the workshops I’m introducing that idea of being really free with forms of expression and taking the fear factor out of it,” Redwood said, wanting to encourage people to be expressive, rather than feeling they have to reproduce a photographic image.
“It’s not the kind of thing you have to whip yourself for,” Starblanket-Larocque said about the creative process.
For the most part, getting creative means learning how to relax and learning how to uncover what is there, according to the artistic couple, which makes the hot springs the ideal place to get back in touch with a person’s creative source.
Thinking creatively is what caused “Your Creative Spirit” weekends and Wednesdays to come into being.
“You have to think of different things these days if you’re an artist to create interest in what you do,” said Starblanket-Larocque, seeing these events as unique opportunities to connect with people.
Redwood appreciates the possibilities that having “The Small Gallery” as a working studio and a show space have afforded her to meet and communicate with people.
“I had a studio gallery before in Cornwall, an artistic centre, and it was great,” she enthused, “People came to that town because they saw it as an arts community. I think Nakusp could be like that.”