A Fearless Voyager
Images by Joern Rohde
Fear of failure: It’s an anxiety that holds many of us back from creative adventures — like painting an iconic landscape, composing a quirky song, making a risky film or writing our life’s story. Rare is the soul who lives an artistic life fearlessly, yet joyfully and with a generous, open heart. The Sea to Sky community was blessed to have such a creative voyager live and work amongst us for many years — artist, DJ and filmmaker Chili Thom.
From June 2 to 26, Arts Whistler presents The Chili Thom Experience to honour Chili’s life and art, at exhibitions and performances throughout Whistler. “It’s not just about celebrating Chili,” says Maureen “Mo” Douglas, Arts Whistler executive director, “It’s about, ‘Let’s all be a little more Chili.’” In other words, what would happen if we let go of fear? What would happen if we started with the question, “What if we succeed?”
Chili’s artistic successes — and some of the student works he inspired — will be showcased at multiple venues around Whistler, including the Maury Young Arts Centre, Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, Whistler Public Library, Whistler Museum and the Audain Art Museum. In addition, the public is invited to engage in the #MeAndMyChili social media imagery collection by taking a picture of Chili’s art, or a “Chili-esque” environment, using the hashtag and sharing through social channels. The images will be gathered into a slideshow to be shown at various events honouring the artist.
Thom was a remarkable artist who wholeheartedly supported the arts and artists in the community. Douglas points out that he was the ultimate cultural connector. “He connected all of us to each other. He connected people to their potential. He connected the artists’ community to what it could be.”
The idea for an exhibition was the brainchild of Heather Paul, a friend of Chili’s and the Arts Whistler board chairperson. At the time, in the fall of 2016, Thom was in a fight for his life against cancer, although no one, even Chili, knew how little time he had left. With the support of Michael Audain, the wheels were set in motion, and Chili was able to curate much of the exhibition’s collection of his artwork.
“At the Audain Art Museum, we want to provide a wide range of opportunities for people of all ages to be inspired by art,” says Suzanne Greening, executive director. “Chili Thom was an artist who truly embraced the dynamic interaction of art, culture and community. We are delighted to be able to showcase the legacy that Chili Thom created by welcoming the community to view his work.”
This past spring, Arts Whistler was fundraising so that Chili’s collection at the Audain would be free to view. Douglas encouraged everyone to participate. “We’ll never quite fill his shoes but we can fill some of the void that’s left in spirit, by bringing some of that fearlessness to everything we do,” she said.
For more information on the full palette of The Chili Thom Experience events, visit artswhistler.com.
EXHIBITS – JUNE 2 TO 26:
His Eclectic Soul | Maury Young Arts Centre
From the eclectic to the unique to the downright bizarre.
His Masterpieces | Audain Art Museum
The best of Chili’s works and his progression as an artist.
Inspired by Chili Thom | Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre
A display of Whistler high school students’ artwork inspired by Chili Thom.
Little Chilis | Whistler Public Library
A showcase of Myrtle Philip Elementary School students’ Chili-inspired talents.
Collecting Chili Thom | Whistler Museum
From the everyday to the epic — sharing 40 years of Chili Thom’s story and legacy.