I am pleased to announce that my project “Changing Squamish” was a recipient of the annual community grant from the Squamish Art Council. This project is a collection of photographs that document the gentrification and ongoing changes that Sḵwx̱wú7mesh has or is undergoing. Having been around long enough to remember Squamish as a quiet town where loggers outnumbered the recreationalist and Dairy Queen was the to go place on the main drag, in the last decade specifically, the changes began. At a rate faster than anyone likely expected, Squamish morphed from a quiet, affordable town, to one of the most expensive places in Canada and a paradise for developers and investors.
As the landscape morphed into a cookie cutter version of other towns across Canada subject to the same processes, the mentality “out with the old, in with the new” became the motto among politicians and developers. Resultantly, complex social, political, economic and environmental issues and their inevitable side effects on community and place start to reveal themselves. Although the local economy reaped the benefits of growth, many long-time locals were out priced and displaced for more affordable pastures; the vehicle resident community felt its impacts; and the landscape and views were commodified. Housing rates tripled and many who moved here for the recreational and affordability aspects, moved away for quieter, more affordable areas, aspects that “old Squamish” had once offered.
This series hopes to inspire questions about the gentrification process, and challenge the definition of “progress.” For example, what are the short and long term implications when a town changes so significantly and quickly, and when green spaces and picturesque views are commodified and environmental capacities are continually pushed at the hands of developers? By looking past the economic benefits of so-called development, I hope to challenge our own understanding of progress, so-called sustainability and inspire a better path forward.
Stay tuned for upcoming show dates! Huge thanks to the Squamish Arts Council for the support, the Foyer Gallery at the Squamish Library, Lucas Teas, the Green Olive, the ongoing guidance from friends with experience, and my profs at the UVIC department of Political Science for giving me a deeper understanding of these issues.