A portion of Kelowna Art Gallery’s new exhibit Grizzly Bears: Teachers of the Land. (Kelowna Art Gallery)

Kelowna Art Gallery’s newest exhibit attempts to de-stigmatize grizzly bears

Grizzly Bears: Teachers of the Land, runs from now until Jan. 9, 2022

A new Kelowna Art Gallery exhibition aims to make learning about grizzly bears more accessible.

The exhibit, titled Grizzly Bears: Teachers of the Land, features artwork in various media by 16 Canadian artists, including Robert Bateman, Susan Point, and renowned Haida artist Bill Reid.

There are 27 pieces in the exhibit, all different representations of the grizzly bear: photographs of a sleeping bear, paintings of a bear after a swim, drawings of a bear in celebration, a sculpture of a sow and her cubs, and many more.

The exhibit was organized by the Bateman Foundation and the Grizzly Bear Foundation, the latter of which is a Canadian charity dedicated to grizzly bear conservation and welfare.

Josh Desnoyers is the marketing and events coordinator at the Kelowna Art Gallery, and he said the goal is to make learning about the animal in a visual, interactive, and accessible way.

“Hopefully, (audiences) see some of the beauty, the power and the majesty of the grizzly bear and maybe learn a thing or two,” he said.

“The exhibit is called Teachers of the Land, and that’s referencing the relationship of the grizzly bear with its environment. Indigenous Peoples for thousands of years have always looked to the grizzly bear as a teacher and learned from it so in the same way, we’re just highlighting some of those teachings.”

Desnoyers added that many may not know that the grizzly bear is a keystone species: without it, the balance in nature will tip over.

“They’re a critical piece in maintaining healthy populations of elk, moose, for dispensing seeds and berries throughout the land and near rivers, they provide fertilizer and nutrients when they bring fish to the shore, eat it and leave the remains by tree roots,” he said.

He added that another goal of the exhibit is to remove the fear and stigma surrounding the grizzly bear.

“It has been (treated) like the shark, perhaps. The grizzly bear’s been demonized and has become frightening but I think that maybe this exhibition is serving to remove a bit of the stigma,” he said.

A second part of the exhibit features a storytelling portion, where participants can sit around on Muskoka chairs and listen to pre-recorded stories, both anecdotal and traditional, about grizzly bears.

Grizzly Bears: Teachers of the Land, runs from now until Jan. 9, 2022. The exhibit is free of charge.

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