The impact of a renowned Kelowna artist can still be seen today in the city’s cultural district 41 years after her death.
Gwen Lamont spent 30 years in Kelowna and her works of art, along with her legacy, remain a crucial part of the Kelowna Art Gallery.
Born in Macleod, Alta. in 1909, Gwen moved with her husband John and twins Eain and Gwendy to the Central Okanagan from Victoria in the 1940s. She was the original curator of the Kelowna Art Gallery, and was heavily involved with the performing arts scene and the Kelowna Regatta Lady of the Lake pageant.
She also worked as an artist for the Capital News in the 1950s, said her daughter.
“She had a very good understanding of Okanagan history,” Gwendy Lamont said. “She was very willing to explore new methods, and I mean she was involved with puppetry, stage sets.”
Three volumes of her sketches of the Lak-La Hai-Ee Shuswap First Nations community can also be found in the Okanagan Heritage Museum.
Gwen taught adult art classes in the community, as well as a children’s Painting in the Park program, according to the Okanagan Heritage Society.
She was also an avid explorer, loved the outdoors and was sensitive to people and their interests, according to her daughter.
“She sometimes said that when she was painting a portrait, she could almost look right into the person’s soul,” said Gwendy.
When Gwendy taught on a First Nations reserve in northern B.C.—and throughout her career as a teacher—she said she used art and sketches, something she got from her mother.
“She was an amazing person and she was exceedingly willing when someone asked her about an art project. She was always willing. She gave her time extensively,” Gwendy said.
There were plenty of places for Gwen and the museum curator at the time, Ursula Surtees, to explore.
“She was very approachable, children just loved to come and watch her (work),” she said.
Gwen Lamont died of cancer in 1978.
It’s important for her to be remembered because of her contribution to local heritage and because people still have an interest in it, Gwendy said.
“I think she loved art and involving children and being involved in some aspect of art and the people she met.”
Gwen is featured as one of the Okanagan’s Inspirational Women featured at the Okanagan Heritage Museum as part of International Women’s Day today.
“She was a very interesting person, and had a very broad outlook on life. I think she immersed herself very deeply in the life of Kelowna,” Gwendy said.
Nataley Nagy, current executive director of the Kelowna Art Gallery, said Gwen Lamont was a great example of a practising artist who was dedicated to her community.
“We plan on being here another 100 years,” said Nagy. “So all of our plans when it comes to collecting mean we’re going to be a resource for many years to come, that’s thelegacy. We have a big responsibility on behalf of the City of Kelowna to manage our collection of 881 works of art and it was started by Gwen.”
The tradition carries on 41 years later.