Cutting hay, calving, branding and the myriad of duties that come with running a ranch are seldom thought of in conjunction with sculpture, painting and art parties.
But in the Heffley Louis Creek Valley, Ross Hill and Jane Irwin have created a place that melds the two. Horses graze amongst installations by artists from around the world and a hay barn doubles as a bright studio with views down the forested valley.
It’s fondly referred to as “Rancho Rasdoul.” The name stems from a nickname Hill and his friends have for the Kerrisdale area they’re from.
The couple live in Vancouver where Irwin is heavily involved in the art community. She serves -as co-vice-chair of the Vancouver Art Gallery, mentors artists and works from her church-turned-studio.
Hill is busy as the owner of three family stores, Blue Ruby, Hills of Kerrisdale and Hills
But their time spent at the property nestled at the bottom of the valley is more laid back.
They purchased the ranch in 2004 as a place to stay while skiing at Sun Peaks. Over the years buildings were added, a pond was created and art installations were carefully placed both inside and out.
“We just love the land,” Irwin said. “We are interested in being a steward of the land.”
For Irwin that comes through her vegetable garden; her current project is pumpkins.
Hill’s focus is on what he describes as beautifying the land. He created a marshy area that has since populated itself with fish and other creatures.
He said not having to run the ranch as a full time job frees up time for the other projects.
“We have the luxury of taking a bit more of an aesthetic perspective.”
A geodesic dome that has drawn attention from passers by was created as a workshop by two artists who live on part of the property, Kevin Schmidt and Holly Ward.
In 2013 they transformed their century old farmhouse into an art installation “EDM House” by covering the building in thousands of christmas lights that were programmed to electronic dance music produced by Schmidt.
Their current project is the creation of an outdoor movie screen.
Hill and Irwin have immersed themselves in the valley’s community and have had many experiences they wouldn’t living in Vancouver.
Recently Hill helped a neighbour slaughter chickens and at other points cows and sheep have grazed in their fields.
Currently a herd of retired horses call a large pasture behind the house home.
A variety of humans have also called Rancho Rasdoul home over the years. After seeing the benefit her own artisan residence programs had on her art Irwin wanted to help others experience the same. They have welcomed many artists to use the ranch as a way to get away from their daily lives.
They can write, paint, sculpt or otherwise express themselves in a wild setting.
“It is pretty exceptional, having a working ranch and environment for wild animals and a creative environment,” Irwin said. “We like the idea of having a rural setting but civilization is 15 minutes away.”
Civilization one hour away in Kamloops has also grown connections to the land. The couple support the Kamloops Art Gallery and have held events and supported artists locally.
The contrast between the land and the art being created and featured on it is striking.
But those who make a living on ranches in the valley have been receptive, Irwin said. Artists created a film and included neighbours and their animals and ranchers have taken the time to attend events.
They said the community has helped them to construct buildings, fix fences, and helped with challenges that come with a lack of knowledge from not living in the area for
There are no concrete plans for the coming years at Rancho Rasdoul. They will continue to spend time out of the city, grow their garden, ski and explore the area while seeing what art or artist’s catch their interest and what other ideas grow from living on the land.