Castlegar residents will have the opportunity to see each other through a different lens in an exhibit that opens next week at city hall.
“The Heart of Castlegar” is a project that local filmmaker and activist Rachel Schmidt took on a year ago to explore identity and connections in the West Kootenay, and her findings will be displayed through a range of photographs and stories.
“I gathered close to 60 different stories from different cultural groups and different citizens in the West Kootenay area,” Schmidt said. “I was also able to really think about how I interact with my own community.”
The various stories and photos will be pared down to fewer than 20 for the exhibit.
Schmidt heard a variety of stories from people, but the common theme was the geography of Castlegar.
“Most people talked about their connection in the Kootenays to the beauty of the landscape,” she said. “For a lot of people it’s the fresh air, the mountains, the water, the outdoor recreation for their kids and the space.”
Schmidt’s favourite story came from someone she remembered from her childhood.
“When I was a kid, I grew up in Castlegar … there was the librarian, Judy Wearmouth … I was able to track her down and it was so fun for me to have that connection with her because I remembered her as a child and checking books out at the library.”
Wearmouth retired in 2003, so Schmidt had to track her down for the project, along with some of the other people she wanted involved.
“I had to do a lot of the work because people tend to not reach out,” she said. “A lot of times I would be out in the community walking around.”
One example she gave was meeting a woman while walking the Millennium Walkway and chatting. She ended up being a part of the project.
On May 27, the exhibit will open at city hall. Schmidt said the show will have both colour and black and white photos of favourite and familiar Castlegar places.
“There’s a strong element of youth in the show because when I was out and about in the streets of Castlegar I would see a lot of youth and talk to them a lot about their connection to Castlegar,” she said. “There is a photograph of people in their gardens … there’s a photograph of First Nations.”
Schmidt calls the project a cross-cultural, cross-age expose of Castlegar living, and she hopes people will come to the opening of the exhibit to continue the conversation.
The photos will stay up in city hall until June 15, and then they’ll be available for purchase.
She’d like to sell them as a collection or at least in small groups, to keep with the theme of community unity. Part of the proceeds will go to a non-profit group in Castlegar.
“The Heart of Castlegar” exhibit opens on May 17 at city hall from 5 to 9 p.m.