Legacy Portraits on display at Pynelogs Community Centre until March 31

By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Laughing, smiling, and loving faces line the walls of Pynelogs Community Centre at Kinsmen Beach in Kimberley Rae’s Calling All Elders Portrait Project. The exhibit runs at Pynelogs from Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. until March 31. 

Rae said nearly eighty seniors have sat for her over the span of a year, and all portraits in the exhibit were donated to be displayed. 

“It so wonderful, and heartwarming to see,” said Tammie Gregory about seeing the portrait of her father Gerry Hope, a long-time resident of Wilmer on display. Gregory, and her sister Kim Kascak of Invermere, gleamed with pride as they admired the portrait of their father. Hope’s is one of the first images people see when stepping into the exhibit, and one of many Rae photographed. 

L to R, sisters Kim Kascak and Tammie Gregory stand in front of a portrait of their father, Gerry Hope. Hope’s portrait is one of the first images people see when taking in Kimberley Rae’s Calling All Elders Portrait Project. The exhibit is on display at Pynelogs Community Centre up to March 31.
Photo by Chadd Cawson

Pynelogs executive director and gallery manager, Cajsa Fredin, said she’s thrilled to be highlighting Rae’s work this month, that her project highlights the importance of adding people’s voice and stories to the history of the Columbia Valley, where many were born and raised or immigrated to.

“Feedback has been great! Lots of visitors, locals, family members, have come to check out these portraits and read the stories which accompany them,” said Fredin. “There is more to a photo than just what we see, captures a moment in time, but just a moment.  To have the time to sit and speak about themselves weaves in the aspects that make Kootenay culture. Kim’s photographic work is technically profound as it captures her talent as photographer, lending her lens to the story. She is a vessel, so as a curator showcasing her talent, it was easy to be the venue and have these on display, but the importance is the story behind the pieces, that is the art  – where it all collides.”

 Photos by Chadd Cawson

Throughout this project Rae has captured the character, love, and laughter in seniors across the Columbia Valley. She included several Elders with Akisqnuk First Nation, Shuswap Band, and Columbia Valley Métis Association. The love and bond of Shuswap Elders, Laverna and Basil Steven, is plain to see through their portraits, Rae took.  The couple celebrated fifty years together in May 2022. Métis couple Pheb and Austin Goulet had the pleasure of sitting for Rae in December 2021. 

Pheb said, “Kimberley made us feel welcome and created a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere in her studio. We are proud to be a part of her portrait project. She is truly a gifted photographer.”

While Rae’s currently has a waitlist, those interested in sitting with her at the studio, can call (250) 342-5102. Rae received two kindness microgrants in 2022 through the Columbia Valley Community Foundation, one in February and the other in December for a total of $700. This grant made it possible for all involved a part to receive a complimentary print. Rae shares it has been incredible to hear how many have been moved by her project which can best be described as portrait poetry. While a journey begins with a single step, the Calling All Elders Portrait Project began with a single portrait.  It was Shirley and Claude Campbell who started it all in February 2012., as they were the first of many seniors to have Rae capture their timeless essence. Rae recalls that they dressed up in their wedding clothes from decades prior.

Shirley and Claude Campbell 2012

“I can still hear Shirley’s laugh when I look at the photo,” said Rae in a previous interview. “I’m honored to be able to give back in a bigger way to this community- the project gives voice and presence to a valuable segment of our community. It’s an easy way to elevate their voices, their presence, their wisdom.”

March 31, is “meet the artist” night a chance to speak with Rae at Pynelogs from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. When asked about her project and experience Rae shares,

“I am a changed person, for the gift of all these conversations, the value in their incredible wisdom and stories. I think we’ve failed our elders. I’m concerned we (society) don’t value and care for them at a higher priority. They’re increasingly isolated and too often we convince ourselves we have more time than we do – and we don’t offer the most valuable gift of all, our time, their time; there’s never enough time. I hope this exhibit causes Pause. Reflection. Connection.”