Glorious public art, wine and the great outdoors: An artist's guide to falling in love with Kamloops
Multimedia artist Vaughn Warren shares his love for the city where he's spent his whole life
Everyone knows about the art scenes in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver — but what about Calgary, Yellowknife or Saint John? In CBC Arts's continuing series "I He(art) My City," a local artist offers an insider's guide to the city they call home. Here, multimedia artist and cultural worker Vaughn Warren shows us his Kamloops.
Kamloops is a dynamic river community, and as such, it ebbs and flows with the seasons. There's always something new to do, for every time of year and every lifestyle. I grew up in Kamloops, and as a long-time artist and cultural worker in the city, I've seen a lot of changes and growth over the years.
Kamloops is located in the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc territory within the unceded traditional lands of the Secwépemc Nation. The name Kamloops is based on the Secwepemctsín (Shuswap) word "Tk'əmlúps," which means "where the rivers meet." But major highways and railways meet here, too, making Kamloops a unique and diverse community featuring a wide range of activities, industries and personalities.
Our city of roughly 90,000 souls is a growing hub of economic activity and innovative arts, culture and tourism programming. Known as the Tournament Capital of Canada (I designed the city's logo for this program), Kamloops features so many things to see and do that I can only scratch the surface here. So let's get at it!
Enjoy the great outdoors, Kamloops-style
Our cup runneth over in Kamloops with things to do and places to see outside. Rivers and lakes abound, and many feature the legendary Kamloops Trout (a unique kind of rainbow trout), attracting anglers from around the globe. Local fly-fishing legend Mo Bradley is famous for offering fly-tying and fishing advice at Surplus Herby's — "the craziest store in town" — and there's a vibrant community of hardcore fish-chasers in the city. You can't swing a cat without finding a spot for your lawn chair, camper and fishing boat, but here are a few favourites:
Kamloops Lake: A gorgeous, huge lake featuring a new marina and ridiculous scenery.
Heffley Lake: On the way to Sun Peaks Resort, "Heff" is a popular mid-sized lake.
Paul Lake: A gorgeous smaller lake with a cute campground and swimming areas.
North and South Thompson Rivers: These clean and majestic rivers are dotted with spots for sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy.
Gotta say, though: there is so much more to do outdoors than fish! The Kamloops area has a fantastic network of trails with lovely grassland, forest and semi-arid hiking opportunities. Check out Al and Mairi Budreau's new book, Kamloops Backcountry Hikes, a wonderful illustrated guide to the best local trails.
Mountain biking is also a big deal here, and there are lots of trails for all levels, plus great local bike shops and mountain biking events. The Kamloops Bike Ranch is Canada's largest municipal bike park, and Lac du Bois Grasslands, Kenna Cartwright Nature Park, Sun Peaks Resort and Harper Mountain are just a few of the other options. Water skiing, boating, tubing, hang gliding, climbing and disc golf are all popular in Kamloops, as well. When it comes to outdoor activities, you name it — the city has it.
If relaxing outdoors is more your speed, visit Riverside Park downtown, a lovely green space with lots of amenities. There are over 100 other municipal parks in Kamloops, too, not to mention kilometres of river beaches in places like Overlander Park, Mission Flats Nature Park, Cooney Bay and Pioneer Park.
Kamloops is also located near a range of lovely, award-winning wineries, like Monte Creek Ranch Winery, Harper's Trail Winery and Privato Vineyard & Winery. Ride the Kamloops Wine Trail with local character Glen Morris of Tailgate Tours — he's a great go-to for guided tours of all kinds.
Check out 'The Big Four'
The Kamloops arts scene is as eclectic as it gets. Galleries, live music and public art are all in ample supply, and new stuff is constantly popping up. But a few institutions really anchor the arts in Kamloops, a group I like to call The Big Four:
Kamloops Art Gallery: The KAG is our regional public gallery with a cool gallery store, plus interesting exhibitions and programming (I should know — I worked there for five years as preparator and exhibition designer).
Kamloops Symphony: Delivering symphonic and choral musical offerings through the season, the Kamloops Symphony is always worth a visit.
Kamloops Arts Council: The mayo in the Kamloops arts scene sandwich. Check out the KAC's main gallery in the Old Courthouse, and watch for their signature events like the annual Art in the Park and Children's Arts Festival.
Visit smaller arts destinations
Local artists of all ages and skill levels have plenty of options when it comes to showing and selling their work in Kamloops, not to mention socializing and collaborating with other creatives. Here are a few must-sees:
Kamloops Makerspace: Housed in the historic Olde Federal Building at 207 Victoria Street W., this amazing space is a hub for artists, techies and craftspeople. Featuring eight workshops and studios, the Makerspace accommodates everything from 3D printing and laser-cutting to woodworking and pottery making. Check out the weekly open houses for tours, demos and fun making of all sorts — and bring family and friends. (I'm a volunteer there, so you may run into me, too!)
The Art We Are: This popular food, beverage, music and artsy hangout on Victoria Street has a large selection of local artwork for sale, and wholesome and yummy food. It has a great patio, too, and features my work on the front of the building!
The Old Courthouse Cultural Centre: In addition to the Kamloops Arts Council's main gallery, visit the Old Courthouse gift store featuring local art for sale.
4Cats Arts Studio Kamloops: Jennifer and Michael "Spikey Mike" O'Brien's shop runs art classes of all kinds, and for all ages, on Victoria Street.
REpublic Gallery: Robin Hodgson and Miranda Dean's contemporary gallery, located on Lansdowne Street, is also a co-working space for local artists.
808&Bench: Operating a well-stocked skate and art supplies shop, Landon Muzio and his crew are the real deal in downtown Kamloops.
Take in some public art
Kamloops has a growing collection of public art. Here are just a few highlights:
Back Alley Art Gallery: A collection of 30 murals in the alleys off Victoria Street and beyond, including The Jaguar Gate by Alexx Moir-Porteous at 223 Victoria Street.
"Community Confluence" by Bill Frymire, a mural covering the Lansdowne St. Parkade.
"Riverpole" sculpture by Vaughn Warren (me!), located at Columbia Street W. and McGill Road.
More local essentials
Music in the Park: Local music legend (and hilarious radio host) Henry Small produces this series of free nightly music events through the summer, featuring a wide variety of quality acts in Riverside Park. Every evening (weather permitting) until Aug. 31.
Heritage Railway: Kamloops boasts an amazing restored steam engine train, the 2141, where you can enjoy scenic outings all summer. July and August
Kamloops International Buskers Festival: Professional street performers from the local area, across Canada, Europe, South America and Australia come together in Riverside Park to show their stuff. July 25 to 28
Kamloopa Powwow: Held at the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc Powwow Grounds, the 40th annual Kamloopa Powwow will host approximately 1,000 dancers and many spectators, making it one of the largest events of its kind in Western Canada. Aug. 2 to 4
Hot Nite in the City: Six blocks in downtown Kamloops are closed off for this event, which showcases an amazing variety of show cars and all things motorized, plus live music and vendors. Aug. 10 and 11
- Kamloops Rotary Ribfest: A huge fundraiser for the local Rotary, this event is a full weekend of live music, activities and artisan-level ribs in Riverside Park. Aug. 9 to 11