Moving Mountains: Post-War Painting and Tourism in Banff National Park, presented at the 10th World Leisure Congress, October 6 - 10, 2008
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The Banff School of Fine Arts was established in 1933 and for the next several decades offered summer adult education programs in the tradition of rational recreation projects. The role of the Banff School in structuring this learning experience as a combination of cultural education and outdoor recreational disciplines has received relatively little critical attention. This study examines the processes of learning to paint at the School in the 1940s-1950s, a period coinciding with a regional emphasis on community arts production, new national and international discourses of visual art, and post-war mass tourism in the national parks. Students of painting were primarily amateurs---schoolteachers or members of community art clubs--themselves idealized in publicity images framing iconographic views and outdoor activity. The selective production of landscape painting at the School was aligned with agendas of postwar national development; students returned home with new skills but also with a received sense of the particular place of visual art for the Canadian citizen. Practices and perceptions of visual arts also contributed to the production of Banff as a tourist commodity. Based on a body of student writings, administrative documents, curriculum records and correspondence, a qualitative analysis traces themes of the structuring of public taste and cultural capital, and argues that visual arts production was significantly mediated by the setting and constraints of time and space; the backgrounds and missions of students and instructors; the mandate of the school and its director; and finally, external institutional regimes including those of the tourism industry, national and provincial politics, and public education. In coordinating temporary communities of artistic production and wilderness consumption, the Banff School did not produce a distinct regional visual culture, but reproduced metropolitan concepts of how to see the Canadian wilderness.