By Julie Fowler, Executive & Artistic Director of Island Mountain Arts –

Island Mountain Arts is excited to kick off its 40th anniversary season in Wells. The organization, which began with a Summer School of the Arts in 1977, always had a big vision, looking to places like the Banff School (now Banff Centre) and Emma Lake and thinking: “Why can’t we do this this right here in the Cariboo?” Wells, with its wealth of facilities from when it was a much larger gold mining town in the 30s, 40s, and 50s, had quieted down considerably by the 70s, thus was a great prospect for an artistic retreat spot.

ArtsWells Vendor Village. Photo: Kent Bernadet
ArtsWells Vendor Village. Photo: Kent Bernadet

Always grassroots, but also very much focused on professional programs with instructors and artists coming from all over Canada and beyond, Island Mountain Arts has hosted, exhibited, and presented an impressive array of artists over its 40-year history.

ArtsWells Vendor Village. Photo: Kent Bernadet
Buskers playing at the ArtsWells Festival. Photo courtesy of Integris Credit Union

This summer, IMA also features a wide array of artists with programs in painting, drawing, song-writing, singing, poetry, writing, and folk harp and cello. Most programs also have public events associated with them such as artist talks, concerts, and readings and the IMA Gallery features exhibitions all summer. Please visit our website ( for all the artistic happenings to catch.

Of course, the biggest happening is the ArtsWells Festival Of All Things Art on the August Long Weekend (August 4–7), which celebrates its 14th season this year and promises to be another explosive weekend of music and art spread through all of Wells and Barkerville. Visit for all the details.

Photo: Mary Matheson
Island Mountain Arts celebrates 40 years of art in the Cariboo. Photo: Mary Matheson

If you are looking for a quieter retreat to focus on your art practice, IMA now offers a year round artist-in-residence program where artists of all mediums can book a self-directed residency, using the facilities on hand, such as the beautiful studio space at the school or performance/recording space at the Sunset Theatre, and staying at IMA’s newly acquired building, “The Nest.” The Nest, which is currently being renovated thanks to the provincial government Collaborative Spaces grant and support from Community Futures and Integris Credit Union, can house up to seven artists in comfortable private rooms in the heart of historic Wells. An official opening of the building with its new renovations is planned for the fall, so consider a fall or winter retreat in this beautiful creative space.

With 40 years of art in the heart of the Cariboo, there is a lot to celebrate. Please join us in Wells this summer (or anytime of year for that matter), to experience the magic of Wells and the joy of creative exploration.



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