Art and the Zen of Curiosity

Unlike passion, which is usually displayed in raucous displays of noisy support and energy, curiosity about a given subject is often quiet, closeted, and sometimes, uncomforting. Driven by a thirst for knowledge, a curious mind is rarely satisfied and yet as a community, we often shy away from general, thoughtful questions and discussion about anything we don’t already have the answers to. For example, how often do you ask a friend their opinion, without already knowing their views in advance? Could you ask a stranger about their thoughts on a sensitive subject and listen to the answer before formulating your response? Do you engage in conversation about topics that make you uncomfortable, or that might result in a heated debate? Do you allow your curious mind to roam free, or do you only cheer for your own team?

Recently, as a result of a generous Canada 150 grant, Fernie was able to commission a new piece of public art to commemorate the great fire of 1908. As artist Michael Hepher said at the unveiling, “When you look at it, take a minute or a day or a year to evaluate what feelings it brings out in you, and then talk to your neighbour about them. Do you see good things about your community? Do you see missing things? Is it discomforting? Does it bring you joy?” Or in other words, let your curiosity take you wherever it wants to go.

For me, having recently started working at the Fernie Museum, it’s about the people of Fernie – remembering the ten lives lost in the fire and who, until now, were relegated to dusty obituaries; the hardy souls who rallied to rebuild in the aftermath over 100 years ago; the committee who worked diligently to bring public art to Fernie; and to the community who asked thoughtful, curious questions as the piece was being built and then showed up — around 150 of us — to celebrate the unveiling. Looking around at the crowd, I saw a great deal of curiosity and I’m thrilled to now have a sculpture in our town that not only looks amazing and is historically significant, but also promotes discussion.

Like the artist, I hope that the sculpture will serve as more than just a giant paperweight. Whether you like it or not, I hope you will be inspired to explore your own curiosity – whether it’s for art or engineering, wildfire prevention or urban development, or whatever it is that drives you. At this unveiling, and at the recent Tourism Week open house and bike-to-work celebration, at a book signing at Fernie Distillers, and at the unveiling of the 2018 art banners, I was inspired by a wide range of conversations sparked by art and community. What are you curious about?

Lance from Elevation Showcase was happy to show off his latest toy to a very curious Mark of Rooftop Coffee Roasters at the recent Tourism open house at Cast Iron Grill.

A large and very curious crowd gathered to check out Michael Hepher’s new installation ‘A Hardy Town’ at Station Square. Local art advocates Oz and Lesley joined in the conversation, and Fernie’s newest resident, Francine, took a moment out of unpacking to meet co-artist and blacksmith, Paul Reimer.

Kootenay author Sean Arthur Joyce was at Fernie Distillers to launch his new novel Mountain Blues. Among the local residents and visitors who came to discuss the novel’s storyline of protecting rural hospital services were Jan and Susan, who picked up copies of the book.

Hanging out at the Arts Station. Alysha, Melanie and Katherine joined Vanessa and dozens of others to create the colourful banners that will soon be hung in downtown Fernie.