Journalist Ian Brown has changed. It took six months in the clear mountain air, immersing himself inThe Banff Centre, observing the Alberta way of life and fine-tuning his canoeing skills, but he’s definitely changed.
Brown was the first Banff Centre Globe Canada Correspondent, and it invariably lobbed some interesting scenarios at him, but essentially it was the cultural exchange at The Banff Centre, set against the backdrop of pure mountain life, that helped shift his worldview.
“It’s definitely made me more ambitious as a journalist,” says Brown. “Banff is a place where you step out of your door and immediately encounter nature. I think people need beauty in their lives – you need to see something beautiful or to encounter something beautiful every day, if only to remind you that it’s there and that it’s important. Being here made me remember that the best art is the art that gives people pleasure, makes them feel stimulated, makes them feel engaged. And you have that every day here. I think it’s made me want to be a more engaging writer.”
Brown, who’s also director of the Centre’s Literary Journalism program, was the inaugural Globe and Mail correspondent for The Banff Centre, starting his tenure back in February. In the six months since he moved from Toronto to the Alberta Rockies he has encountered his fair share of obstacles (in the form of legendary dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov), insults (a concert violinist commenting that musicians are “gods compared to writers”) and delights (the best curry Brown has ever tasted was at Vista’s).
“I have yet to have a boring conversation in Banff,” he says. “A huge part of this is the immersive experience of being around artists and art all the time. I’ve encountered writers, painters, thinkers and mathematicians. And what being in the immersive situation does is makes you not judge anything. You can’t judge it, you’re part of it.”
For every challenging encounter there was also an equally rewarding one. “I really loved talking to Jeff Melanson on what he plans to do with the Centre. The way he connects up nationalism and culture and the environment, he understands the connection between the mountains, the mind and the body politic. Those were ideas I hadn’t heard till I got out here.”