He’s the creative brain behind the thriving art scene in Revelstoke, British Columbia, and we discover Rob Buchanan is one part artistic tour de force and one part mad scientist. Story by Clare Menzel. Feature photo by Bruno Long.
Two-and-a-half metres tall and constructed from second-hand skis, a mosaic of Mona Lisa smiles into an alley in Revelstoke. The blue-haired beauty, called Mona Skisa, is one of six pieces comprising the city’s “art alleries.” The project is the brainchild of Rob Buchanan, a multimedia artist who catalyzes collaborative creation. “He’s the heartbeat of the Revelstoke arts scene,” says photographer Bruno Long. “Whatever he does, people follow.” Local illustrator Jess Leahey concurs, saying Buchanan is “a Martian-sent weirdo. He’s the mentor of every big player in our art world. Just a fascinating mad-scientist genius.”
Buchanan, 50, was born in Toronto and launched a career in photography after studying photojournalism in Victoria. He and his wife moved to Revelstoke 25 years ago, and soon after Parks Canada hired him to design interpretive exhibits, which led to new art forms, like sculpture, and new obsessions, such as free outdoor art and collaborations. “Working with huge teams and really creative people, where you get everybody’s ideas coming together, it’s addictive,” Buchanan says.
View this post on Instagram
His artistic exploits follow a certain trajectory: First, an idea leads him to a new tradesperson or a familiar collaborator, then they put their heads together in a creative problem-solving session, and suddenly, bam! “Next thing I know, I’m in a welding shop,” he says. “All of a sudden, there’s a sandblaster.…Next thing you know, we have something gravity defying!”
These days, Buchanan prefers to take a “more backseat role as support and logistics” for emerging creative teams. He sparks connections between people and creates opportunities to bring audiences in front of art. “When I’m feeling like I’m looking for ideas, or trying to get some inspiration, he’s legitimately the first person I go talk to,” Long says. “He is the most creative person I have ever met.”