Arts & Culture Stories from Banff and Lake Louise
In 1883, three Canadian Pacific railway workers discovered hot springs deep inside Sulphur Mountain. This triggered a chain of events that led to the birth of Canada’s national park system and Banff National Park’s inception in 1885, making it the fourth oldest national park in the world. The Town of Banff, formerly Siding 29, was created as a tourist town from its very inception and the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was integral in shaping the development of the tourism infrastructure. Now you can ride the rails with Rocky Mountaineer. Visitors from around the world used to arrive to the mountains via the CPR, who also established Banff’s most famous hotels, including the Fairmont Banff Springs and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Times have changed and CPR no longer dominates the tourism operations in Banff, but their influence on the visitor experience in the park is a lasting legacy. Learn more about the history of the railway on the Canadian Pacific website.
National Historic Sites have been designated based on their significance in Canada’s history and seven of them are located in Banff National Park. Many of the National Historic Sites, such as Banff Park Museum, Cave & Basin and Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, are easy to access. Others, including the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station on Sanson Peak, Skoki Lodge, and Howse Pass, require varying degrees of hiking and backcountry access.
Banff National Park is home to one of Canada’s leading arts institutions, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. The Banff Centre’s powerful mountain setting, exceptional artists and leaders from around the world create and perform new works of art; share skills and knowledge in an interdisciplinary environment and explore ideas and develop solutions in the arts and leadership. Consider participating in one of the Literary Arts department writing programs. Indigenous leadership programs are available to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit leaders and managers, to help build capable governing bodies that are compatible with their cultures and traditions.
The Group of Seven was a group of Canadian landscape painters and some of the best-known Canadian artists of all time. They had a strong connection with the landscapes of Banff National Park. Two members of the group, A.Y. Jackson and Lawren Harris, taught at the Banff Centre while other members visited the mountain parks to paint. Visit the Visual Arts department at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, where Harris and Jackson taught or visit the Whyte Museum, which often features paintings by the Group of Seven (call to inquire).
The men and women who explore, inquire and adventure in the Canadian Rocky Mountains are tough, resilient, curious and intelligent. Opened in May 2012, the Whyte Museum’s exciting new ten-year exhibit, Gateway to the Rockies, communicates the history of the Rocky Mountains and the people who have shaped the local culture. The exhibit allows visitors to walk through the various eras of discovery using life-size replicas, artifacts, artworks, photographs and interactive displays. Learn more about the exhibit through the museum’s blog.