Jasper
Marmot Basin

Mountain Galleries delivers great Canadian art the right way

Behind 35 years of experience, founder Wendy Wacko has created an unforgettable experience

RICK MACDONNELL

JASPER, ALTA. – Established in 1992 in Jasper, Alberta by artist and filmmaker Wendy Wacko, Mountain Galleries is one of the largest commercial art galleries in Western Canada with locations in Banff, Jasper, and Whistler. In 2011, Mountain Galleries celebrated its 20th anniversary. It has been a blessing to its founder, who is still awestruck at its success.

"I honestly can't believe – in my lifetime – that I had the opportunity to build this gallery [in Jasper] at 3,000 square feet," said Wacko, whose Jasper gallery is located within the beautiful Fairmont Hotel. "Fairmont has given us the opportunity to create a marvellous space to promote Canadian art to the world."  

A diverse collection

Mountain Galleries, Jasper

From abstract impressionism to magical realism, Mountain Galleries has pieces for almost any taste.
Photo by Brandon Boucher

While some might point to Jasper as the "flagship" location, Wacko likes to think of Mountain Galleries as one gallery in three locations. "I'm always thinking of what we have hanging on the walls in Banff and what we have in Whistler. We want our clients to be aware of the inventory we control."

"The success of Mountain Galleries is truly the diversity of its collection. Visitors will find everything from abstract impressionism to magic realism. Art is subjective: what one person absolutely loves another person doesn't even see; so understanding the client's needs and providing the best possible customer service is a top priority.

"We're in the business of selling memories. You might have been on a hike or gone for a raft trip down the Athabasca River, ridden the gondola, seen the sky at Whistler and had a great view of the Black Tusk and you walk into the gallery and you see imagery that reminds you of those holidays you experienced."

Faux-daylight

What helps sell those memories is Mountain Galleries' LED lighting system. Wacko attended the World Lighting Conference in May of 2010, where her imagination was ignited. The Jasper location is now 97% LED, lights that don't give off any heat or UV rays. It's an incredibly comfortable environment to be in. It has also allowed Wacko and Lighting Engineer Bernard Bauer to create what they call faux-daylight.

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"We were able to create the effect of daylight at any time of day," Bauer said. "More importantly, we are actually sequencing it with what really happens in the natural rhythm of daylight-to-evening. Therefore it helps support this effect of daylight."

Giving back

Wacko has also taken the time to give back in the form of a learning centre right in the gallery. "What we've done at the Jasper location – we have the space to do it – is we've taken a whole corner and created a learning centre for the kids," Wacko said.

 

"We've got a great library of Canadian art books, we've got an easel and a watercolor station we can bring out on rainy days to give classes."

70% of the collection at Mountain Galleries is from Western Canadian artists. Artists who live and work in Alberta and British Columbia.

"Our passion is promoting great works of Canadian art. And great art deserves to be seen properly. We've created more than just a gallery; we've created an experience. It'll be an experience they won't forget."

For more on Mountain Galleries, visit its website.

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