Spend 24 Hours at The Banff Centre
Spend an entire day at The Banff Centre, experiencing art galleries, libraries, shows and workshops. There is even a restaurant and place to stay.
The Banff Centre, an arts and culture organization that offers multidisciplinary programs and residencies to support artists, is a hotspot for a day-long visit from Calgary. A short stay at the campus could include everything from visits to the Walter Phillips Gallery and the library archives, a fine dinner at the Three Ravens and an evening show.
If you’re not sure where to start, we give you some options for an entertaining 24-hour stay.
Visit the Walter Phillips Gallery, open Wednesday through Sunday from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.. The WPG’s mandate is the “production, presentation, collection and analysis of contemporary art and curatorial practice.” Artists and curators from around the world show work here, and the offerings are never dull. In addition to the gallery space, the WPG organizes public programs such as lectures by visiting artists and curators.
See the Butterfly Garden, located next to the Walter Phillips Gallery. The garden is one of several across Canada, created by artist Mike MacDonald. It’s part of a body of work documenting and celebrating butterflies and the plants that are necessary for their survival. It is located in the only spot at The Banff Centre that is protected from large wildlife such as elk and deer. When you pass through the tall gates you may feel a bit like you’ve stumbled into The Secret Garden. The many varieties of native alpine plants were selected to recreate a natural meadow habitat ideal for butterflies and caterpillars to rest, nest, and eat. Many of the plants are also significant to the First Nations people of the area. Their healing and ritual properties are celebrated in this space as well.
Stroll around campus looking for public art. See if you can spot the work by Calgary-based artist Tyler Los Jones. (Hint: Look up when you’re leaving the WPG). Or, find the benches by Brian Jungen that are shaped like caribou, moose and elk antlers. Once you’ve found the antlers, you’re just steps away from the Maclab Bistro, so you might as well stop there for lunch. It has an outstanding selection of fresh and healthy meals, with great choices for everyone from vegan to carnivore.
Also inside the Kinnear Centre building is the Paul D. Fleck Library and Archives. A library unlike any in Calgary, it has entire aisles dedicated to musical scores.
Sit and enjoy the mountain views in peace and get up-to-date on arts and culture news in the magazine section, or ask a librarian to share some artist books with you. These are works of art that take the form of a book (rather than a painting, say, or a sculpture). The Banff Centre’s library has some 4,000 artist books in its library collection. While you can see some of them online, they are worth visiting in person – these are works of art that you can touch and interact with, after all!
The Banff Centre also has a several performing arts venues. A glance through its events calendar and you’ll find offerings such as contemporary dance, music of just about every genre, film, lectures, readings and theatre shows. Many musicians who stop in Calgary also make an appearance at The Banff Centre. There are advantages to seeing these artists in Banff. The venues are intimate, ticket prices are lower and there are packages that include the show, a room to stay in and breakfast. And, let’s face it, it’s a great excuse for a mountain getaway.
The Club, shown here, is a cabaret-style venue seating 120, meaning you’ll be just metres from the stage no matter where you sit.
If you spend more than a few hours at The Banff Centre, you’ll likely cross paths with Jim Olver, the director of customer service. If you stay at the hotel, you’ll probably see him in the lobby or just outside. Here, in the Eric Harvie Theatre (the main auditorium at the centre that seats 959), Olver pauses to catch up on his messages, coordinate the arrival of a wedding cake as well as musicians arriving to perform a concert that night and confirm special arrangements for a guest with restricted mobility.
If you’re planning to catch a show and stay the night at the centre, you don’t need to leave the grounds to have a nice dinner. Visit the Three Ravens for fine dining and seasonal menus that include Ocean Wise-certified seafood (like the pan seared Haida Gwaii scallop with orange and chvre noir risotto) and greens grown in a little greenhouse right beside the kitchen.
Make sure you save room for dessert. If you’re one of those people who has trouble selecting just one thing from dessert menus, Three Ravens has two-item and three-item tasting options (With five desserts on the menu, when you and your dining companion each order a tasting flight, you can try everything!)
If you are staying over, you’ll be back in the Vistas Dining Room for the huge breakfast buffet. It’s right beside the Three Ravens, and offers the same panoramic views to enjoy with your morning coffee.
If you haven’t got a concert or play booked for your evening, you might try one of the public programs offered by The Banff Centre, like the free Drawn to Nature workshop. These happen once a month, rotating through several venues including the Banff Park Museum (shown above), the Whyte Museum, the Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum, and the Cave and Basin.
People of all ages and levels of experience are welcome to participate in the workshop. Here, instructor Christine Prescott introduces the participants to the various drawing tools provided. No matter your level of experience, the workshop begins with a quick introduction and demonstrations of the basics of drawing. (Everyone starts with the antler on the table).
After the group has had a chance to practice, Prescott turns everyone loose in the museum to select a subject to draw. All the supplies you need are provided, and luckily for beginners, the animals on display in this national historic site stay very still, giving you the chance to really focus on your crosshatching technique. The evening finishes up with the group coming back together to share their work.
The Banff Centre is at 107 Tunnel Mountain Drive in Banff. For more information on its programming, restaurants and hotel, visit banffcentre.ca