• whytemuseum

Five Fresh Exhibitions You Don't Want to Miss at the Whyte This Summer

Updated: Aug 17

Back to the Cairn

Currently at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, a variety of new exhibitions are available to enjoy on your next trip to Banff this summer. A visit to the Whyte Museum is the perfect way to enjoy the local culture and history of this area, complementing other exciting events and activities here in Banff National Park. And with a convenient location downtown on Bear Street, you're within walking distance of Banff Ave, restaurants, and several local attractions - it's never too far to stop by!

The Whyte's current summer exhibitions range from traditional to contemporary, and you'll find art from creatives with a breadth of backgrounds, including Métis beadwork artists, a number of the founding members of the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts (RCA), local multimedia artists, Treaty 7 artists, and even our very own founders, Peter Whyte and Catharine Robb Whyte. Some exhibitions are making a return appearance after an initial interruption by COVID-19 in the spring of 2020, and others are coming to the museum for the very first time.

Find out why you should check out Canoe, Breathe, About Face, Peter Whyte and Catharine Robb Whyte: Fan Favourites, and the Cave and Basin Mural Project this summer!


Painting of red canoe on a lake in a mountain landscape.
David Thauberger R.C.A., Summer Drift, 2018 Acrylic on canvas, 36x46". Private collection.

Displayed in its entirety for the first time this summer at the Whyte, Canoe is a private collection that spans 200 years of painting in Canada and is the only comprehensive privately held collection focusing on canoes.

The canoe has been termed the vessel that shaped Canada, and it was voted one of the Seven Wonders of Canada by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in a national competition in 2007. It has captured our imagination and allowed us to explore remote areas of the country with intimacy and wonder. The canoe is our enduring connection to Canada’s remarkable geography.

The collectors, Grit and Scott McCreath, have gathered works that articulate the history of Canada through depictions of Indigenous and settler populations in various landscapes. Through the works of art, the viewer learns of the historical structure and usage of Indigenous vessels and the role this plays in carrying cultural knowledge forward.

The McCreath canoe collection began innocently in 2006 as a birthday present from Grit to Scott with the purchase of an 1875 watercolour by Canadian artist Lucius O’Brien (1832 – 1899). Eventually, the concept of collecting specific to subject was discussed and Rod Green of Masters Gallery in Calgary became the leading locator of the historic and contemporary paintings. The McCreaths expanded the collection with three-dimensional pieces, one of which is a 14-foot canoe made of one continuous piece of birch bark in 2017 by Canmore resident Don Gardner.

The earliest work is an incredibly rare 1820 watercolour by John Halkett (1768 – 1852). The collection also includes artist-explorers of the 19th century, who were contracted by Sir William Van Horne to depict the construction of the CPR railway and expansion of western Canada. In 1880, a number of the artists were founding members of the prestigious peer-adjudicated organization the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts (RCA). The 20th-century works are by creative, well-established artists from across Canada who are also celebrated as art educators, designers, and printmakers. The collection encompasses works from all provinces and territories except the Yukon and spans all three Canadian coasts.

The exhibition is supported by BMO Private Wealth and Grit and Scott McCreath and family. The Whyte Museum is most grateful to the McCreaths for lending us this important and remarkable evolving and expanding collection.

Check out the recent media coverage of Canoe:

Exhibit offers look at history of canoeing in Canada | Greg Colgan with Rocky Mountain Outlook

Banff's Whyte Museum celebrates 200 years of canoe art in new exhibition | CBC News


Beadwork in the design of blueberries on moose hide mask. Made by Metis artist Nathalie Bertin.
Nathalie Bertin, Blueberries, 2020 Moose hide, beads, melton wool, cotton fabric, rabbit fur, leather. Collection of the artist.

In early March 2020, COVID-19 arrived in Canada, beginning a long period of isolation, closures, and distress. Shortly thereafter, the Whyte Museum closed its doors but stayed in touch with the community through online video presentations. Some visitors were able to view the first Breathe exhibition in person but the majority were restricted to our online interview with co-creators and Métis artists Nathalie Bertin and Lisa Sheppard.

The genesis for the exhibition first evolved within the first two weeks of the shutdown. Both Nathalie and Lisa noticed a distinct absence of beaded objects being made by traditional artisans. For them, it was curious as they assumed it was the exact time artists should be creating. Known as the Flower Beadwork People, the Métis put their distinct style of beading on a wide variety of objects and garments as a general practice. In speaking with their peers, Nathalie and Lisa learned that the pandemic had completely blocked the creativity of many. For some, it was a déja-vu to generations prior whose relatives were gravely impacted by infectious diseases. Very quickly Nathalie and Lisa invited Indigenous artists to create hand-crafted masks. Realizing the effect of the pandemic impacted all populations, they soon opened the call to anyone, in any traditional medium authentic to their own culture and artistic practice. Artists from Canada, the US, many parts of Europe, Australia, and New Zealand responded with the resulting success prompting a second circulating exhibition

Each traditionally crafted mask tells a unique story of the artists’ experience and shares a common message on the importance of breath. Constructed of diverse materials, these 90 contemporary artifacts record a significant historical moment in human history.

About Face