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Banff Isolation Gallery art walk celebrates creators

“I think the mountains inspire people,” said Nahanni McKay. “This is a huge art community, so it would be really cool to see everyone’s work displayed publicly.”
Isolation art walk
The Isolation Gallery art walk creator and curator Nahanni McKay paints images on her window in Banff. JAY NIGRO PHOTO

BANFF – Looking to provide a ray of light in the windows of Banff homes, a local artist has launched a social distancing art walk.

The Isolation Gallery is a social distancing art walk that encourages people to hang pieces they have crafted during the COVID-19 pandemic in their windows, according to its creator and curator Nahanni McKay.

The Bow Valley has countless incredible artists, McKay said, and it is the perfect time to highlight everyone’s art while reminding the community they are alone together.

“I think the mountains inspire people,” she said. “This is a huge art community, so it would be really cool to see everyone’s work displayed publicly.”

McKay, who was born and raised in Banff, said she was roused to create the gallery because her only safe activity outside her home has been walking around the town. She explained while walking the streets of Banff she was struck by all the great artwork and inspirational handcrafted posters she has seen in windows.

“I thought that is such a good idea – a nice art walk is a great way to bring the community together,” McKay said.

She added that because many people in Banff are stuck inside with time to spare, she thought it would be fun to add a silver lining to a difficult time with the art walk.

“Making art is one way to pass the time during this isolation,” McKay said. “I thought it would be great to bring people together through this time as well.”

McKay is an alumnus of the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, graduating in photography. She worked with the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity as a practicum student for a year and was set to launch a program with the Whyte Museum before the COVID-19 virus.

Despite the radical cultural shift in the Bow Valley created by COVID-19, McKay said she was compelled to find a way to still share and celebrate art in the community.

“It’s definitely an interesting time and I really want to capture through my photographs what COVID-19 is like in Banff,” McKay said. “We’re never going to see Banff like this again probably in our lifetime. It’s so empty.”

The Isolation Gallery is a celebration of locals in the community McKay said, adding she hopes other artists will join her by adding pieces to the walk.

It feels good to be doing something that can bring the community together, McKay said.

“If people want to go for a walk in town, this should be a cool place to go check out where some nice works are in the window,” McKay said. “People will enjoy it.”

The photographer said she hopes it helps people feel united as a community during a time when many are physically alone.

 “It would be nice as a community to have some positive messages when you’re outside,” McKay said.

An added benefit of the art walk is that it can serve as a chance to create a historical record of the pandemic she said, explaining that participating art pieces can help capture the communal experience of the Bow Valley during the pandemic.

McKay said she appreciates that people are using the time to be more creative and have embraced the chance to create art. It has been fun to see people who do not typically pick up a paint brush give it ago.

“This is the time to do it,” McKay said, explaining that the art walk is opened to anyone who wants to participate. The important aspect of the gallery is creating something that you want to share with the community.

“It’s about your artistic belief and feeling.”

The Isolation Gallery is open now and runs until the end of isolation. To participate in the art walk, or have your piece featured online message @isolationgallerybanff with your piece and location.