Meet the Eight Artists: Great Art for Great Lakes Across Ontario

Laura Palumbo
July 10, 2017
map of Great Arts for the Great Lakes communities

Great Art for Great Lakes (GAGL) has commissioned eight artists across Ontario to work with the public on participatory artworks that celebrate our iconic Great Lakes.

This spring, GAGL is visiting Kingston, Hamilton, Mississauga, Sudbury-Manitoulin, Thunder Bay, Aamjiwnaang First Nation, Owen Sound and Toronto to hold community-driven, free events that introduce local artists and explain how the public will be involved in creating collaborative works of art.

A map of the communities that GAGL holding events in 2017. Credit: Waterlution
A map of the communities that GAGL holding events in 2017. Credit: Waterlution

Great Art for Great Lakes is part of a larger initiative called Greatness: The Great Lakes Project, which began at a 2015 roundtable convened by Ontario’s lieutenant governor. The participants, drawn from business, the arts, science and sports, resolved that “a bold and noble initiative” could make the Great Lakes a powerful symbol of “greatness” for the basin’s 40 million residents in Canada and the United States.

Artist Nicole Clouston. Credit: Waterlution

The eight artists selected begin with Nicole Clouston, whose “Lake Ontario Portrait” will create a wall-based sculpture that takes mud as its medium.

“Community members will be invited to bring a sample of mud from a location along the lake that is meaningful to them,” as explained on a meet the artists page. “The mud will then be place in clear prisms, along with nutrients that encourage microbial growth. Once exposed to light, the microbial life naturally present in the mud will begin to flourish, becoming visible in the form of brightly coloured marbling. Each sculpture will grow differently, featuring different tones, depending on the location along the lake it was collected from.”

Other artists include:

  • Andy Berg, who will engage the community to collectively sculpt a low-relief ceramic wall work titled Aqua Viva, to be housed in the Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning.
  • Julieanne Steedman, who “looks forward to working with the local community to create meaningful artwork that will share history, build connections and tell a story; the story that the lake has to share. This collaborative work will celebrate the small truths and hidden miracles of our northern environment – its history, people, and landscape.”
  • Vanessa Logan, whose work draws on vintage and antique ephemera – physical reminders of the past that she reconstitutes into sculpture or composed images.
  • Julia White, who will create an installation of WATER Columns, laser-cut steel sculptures lit from within with watery blue light.
  • John Williams and Jill Joseph, who will work on a tree “formed with the handprints of our Elders as the roots and branches of family members to signify the generations of growth.”
  • Betty Carpick, who’s inviting people to tell stories about relationships to water to create a quilt-like assemblage.
  • Labspace Studio, which will create a collaborative art installation celebrating the beauty, ecology and majestic depths of Lake Ontario, assembled from hundreds of origami shapes depicting various Lake Ontario species, and suspended in the “Living Earth” room at the Ontario Science Centre.

“Artists play a critical role in enabling the public to connect and reflect upon the often-forgotten importance of our Great Lakes to all of us in our daily lives,” said GAGL Project Lead Christopher McLeod. “(Great Art for Great Lakes), a socially engaged, participatory project, led by the selected artists, will create a platform where the public is integral to the project, dialogue, and the creation of the final work. The extended installation period really allows for a long-lasting narrative on the Great Lakes.”

Great Art for Great Lakes invites the public to check out its Event Schedule to discover and become involved in a free, fun event happening in their community. The events began June 3 and continue through October. 

Children at a June 3 GAGL ice cream social in Hamilton, Ontario. Credit: Anna Wiesen
Children at a June 3 GAGL ice cream social in Hamilton, Ontario. Credit: Anna Wiese


Laura Palumbo