Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Job Opportunity in Thunder Bay: Proposed Thunder Bay Art Gallery Looking for an Architect

    On a bus to North Vancouver via Stanley Park and the Lions Gate Bridge I struck up a conversation with a young architect who was proud to be on a team hired to design the expansion of the Vancouver Airport. Although the architect began the conversation enthusiastically when he talked about the expansion, he became visibly upset when he spoke about the meeting he had just come from with the head baggage handler.
     “What the fuck does a baggage handler know about aesthetic design?” he spat. The architect was upset that his team’s contemporary/modern design for the new wing of the airport might have to be altered, and he would have to cede some authority to a man who probably knew nothing about modern aesthetics.
     I was a bit surprised by his venom, but nodded in agreement, knowing that both white and blue-collar workers generally had little knowledge about the value of the arts or its history. However, when I began to wonder what a baggage handler might have to offer in such a meeting, I came up with several ideas very quickly.
     In my experience, after a long flight, the longer I have to wait for my baggage at an airport the more irritable and worried I get. I want to get the hell out of the airport as soon as possible and I don’t want my bags to be damaged, stolen or filled with cocaine. I’m hoping the items in my luggage, my camera, the gifts I bought for friends, new clothes, haven’t been lost or stolen. I’d seen news reports about baggage handlers stealing items from people’s luggage. So surely efficiency and security are important.
     And! When it comes to terrorism, what concerns might the head baggage handler have? After all, 268 Canadians, 27 Brits, and 24 Indians were murdered on Flight 182, a flight that left the Vancouver Airport in 1988. Before 9/11 this was the worst act of terrorism in North America. The bomb was hidden in a radio. In the luggage!
     I politely began to argue with the architect, pointing out how a baggage handler could most definitely contribute to the design of an efficient and safe airport. Wasn’t it paramount to get luggage from a customer’s hands to the plane and back again to the carrousel as safely and as quickly as possible? Aesthetics couldn’t possibly be the primary concern.
     The architect grumbled a bit, went dead silent and ignored me.
     With the city planning to move the Thunder Bay Art Gallery to the waterfront there are all sorts of concerns involving all sorts of people. The search for an architect is underway, and along with the excitement and hope comes some trepidation. One board member for the gallery was worried that an architect they might choose would create a “vanity project.” And during a televised session, councilor Ian Angus stated to the director of the gallery, Sharon Godwin, that he did not want the new gallery to be yet another “box.” Godwin thoroughly agreed.
     Yes, a new public gallery for Thunder Bay could be wonderful and a design that meets most everyone’s criteria would be great. Sadly, there have been enough architects whose attitudes and epic fails have soiled their own field to the extent that politicians, business people, and some of the public are nervous about dealing with them. Talk to any engineer who has had to work with architects on major projects or any member of a university administration who has and you will hear lots of colourful descriptions of architects. My favourite is “little dictators.”
     My father, Geoffrey Weller, who was a professor here at Lakehead University, became the founding president of the University of Northern British Columbia just over twenty years ago. He had the task of selecting an architect for UNBC’s construction. At the time, this was the first university to be built in Canada in twenty-fiver years. He told me how the architects simply wouldn’t listen to him. He dealt with a couple of the most famous architects in the country and was stunned by their attitude. After some frustration, he chose an American architect and to drive home the point of having a university built to meet the requirements of a northern climate, amongst many other concerns, he and the architect took a trip to Scandinavia to do some comparative research as to what worked and didn’t work for universities built in northern climates.
     The result is a fantastic little university in Prince George built in a unique C shape that allows access to every building without having to step outside in the cold. Other unique design elements were incorporated to make the building environmentally friendly, safe for women in particular, and adaptable to emerging technologies.
     A museum or gallery has its own set of functions that are unique. Although function is a primary concern, one hopes the architect has an understanding of the potential value of the numinous, a spiritual connection of land to people, primarily of our First Nations people, which would further express and fulfill the mandate of the gallery. It is an exciting prospect and one hopes the architect selected to design the new gallery gets us as excited as he or she might be when taking on the commission.
     By the way, the above design was a result of some of my own excitement about the project. I'd love to see something unique, a bit like Antoni Gaudi's work, with a First Nation artist's twist. But that's just me. 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Discussions for the Move of the Thunder Bay Art Gallery to the Waterfront

Public discussions were held at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery just over two weeks ago to generate ideas related to the impending move of the gallery to the waterfront. Although the meetings were slightly paternalistic in method when guests had to play a bit of musical chairs and everyone was limited to preset questions that each group received at their table, the process did save time and got to the nitty-gritty, allowing everyone a voice which generated many great ideas. Not one person at the discussions protested the idea of building a new gallery at the waterfront. The attendees were mostly artists, representing different fields. They spoke well for cultural diversity in the arts and the city and were excited to contribute ideas as to how the gallery would benefit the community and would continue to fulfill the gallery’s mandates.
     A move to a new space would be awesome, provided nature doesn’t blow down the new gallery, flood it, sink it, crack it or snow it in. With a beautiful and multi-functional architectural design the gallery could perform its basic functions while also hosting a coffee shop, gift shop, bookshop, conservatory, workshop/utility space, and a hall or ballroom. Potential combinations are exciting, could earn it some money, and make the gallery a natural draw for walk-by traffic of both locals and tourists.
     The gallery’s current location in the bush at the back end of a field of asphalt that is the parking lot at Confederation College does nothing for it. Try giving directions to a tourist who asks for its location. Can you name the streets to its location? Not even the majority of college students know there’s a top-notch gallery in their back yard. Taking the bus there is a royal pain.
     With the largest permanent collection of art in the region, the only national exhibition space between Sault St. Marie and Winnipeg, the space is the most accommodating in the city with three large showrooms. With a mandate to showcase and collect aboriginal art, the gallery has nearly 25 exhibitions a year, featuring local artists and artists of national significance in travelling exhibitions, with themes and art selected by professional curators. However, the storage space and demands for bigger shows require more of both.
     As Heidi Uhlig, the board president of the gallery states, “We’ve outgrown the building. We’re essentially bursting at the seems and the feasibility study confirmed that.” The gallery is currently using all of its 18,000 square feet and the 2010 study found that the gallery needs to be at least twice its current size in order to expand its collection, exhibition space, administration space, and more. As Heidi states, “We don’t have enough space for hosting community events.”
     The gallery is putting out a request for qualifications for architects, looking for an architect who has some experience designing a museum or an art gallery. The board is looking for a design that is unique, iconic, sits well with the waterfront, allows for the functioning of the mandates as a center for aboriginal and regional art with the ability to host international shows and which reflects the topography and geography of the area. The gallery could double as a potential community space of high caliber and be a major attraction.

     This is a tall order, which leads to part two of this article in two week’s time.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Lakehead University Fine Art Department Faculty Show

  Now showing at the Definitely Superior Art Gallery, in all three of its exhibition spaces, is the work of fifteen Lakehead University Fine Art Department Faculty professors and instructors. They are: Roly Martin, Sarah Link, Alison Kendall, Mark Nisenholt, Ann Clarke, Mavourneen Trainor, Kasia Piech, Julie Cosgrove, Sam Shahsahabi, Quentin Maki, Janet Clark, Peter Wragg, Heather Cranston, Caitlyn McMillan, Dr. Andrea Terry and Hannah Guthrie.
     Although there is a mix of individual explorations of styles, styles accrued over time requiring lots of thought and experimentation, these works also represent a variety of contemporary/modern visual styles influenced by the fine art world, a world most frequently seen in the big galleries and museums of bigger city centers.
     Most of us, the public, get to peek at these works in big coffee table books. This is a great opportunity to see this kind of work live and up close.
     For anyone interested in the visual arts as a hobby or career choice, this is also an opportunity to get a sampling of the philosophical directions that the Lakehead University Fine Arts department takes towards the visual arts. There is here, as the very nature of “Fine Art” implies, the avoidance of the commercial and popular arts. It’s pretty clear that if a student of visual art were looking to illustrate a graphic novel, work in the movies, or get involved in commercial design, Lakehead Univervisty might not be the place to go. However, it is still possible to be inspired by the different approaches, no matter where your interests lay.
     Judging a show like this on its own merits is a bit like judging the dance of another tribe. One has to understand the language the tribe has developed for itself. Although the public still has some difficulty with the translation, the public is more and more accepting of it.
    This show represents pure gallery art, which is collectable and predominantly about personal artistic statements, or art itself and/or its history, like an intellectual onion with lots of layers rather than obviously sporting any contemporary political or social subject matter. However, for artists leaning more towards popular and commercial art, there is great value in seeing a variety of approaches to creating pictures and sculptures whatever the subject may be.
     For instance, Quentin Maki’s painting “Undertow” has a wonderful surface of texture and glazes that is rich and vibrant. Imagine if entire walls were created with this surface and pillars and costumes for an elaborate theatre production. It would be awesome.
     Mark Nisenholt’s Sproing series of digital prints employ great crosshatching and other technical skills beautifully employed to create imaginary landscapes. Similar to his series of globes, the approach could have multiple uses for other fields of art – rock album covers, book covers, posters, etc.
     Caitlin Jean McMillan’s collage works for “Irrational Body” are both a bit repellent and attractive. Imagine these as backdrops for a graphic zombie novel or The Walking Dead. Images like these could represent the state of mind of a character or play as a background while main characters discuss the morality of conquering a neighboring town.
     Mavourneen Trainer’s “The Deconstrution of a Dragonfly: A Maximalist Approach,” is an acrylic work that in its beauty immediately conjures up feelings of the adventure of finding new places. The images are of both landscape and mindscape and could be used for an alternative approach to creating children’s book illustrations, or making delightful posters, etc.
     And this can be done with all works in the gallery. It’s a great show. For with a bit of imagination and with a spirit of play, one can read the works for their own inherent merits and/or get inspiration for their own approach to art. Such is the history of art, where much of art’s value lies in the never-ending use and reuse of multiple approaches to creating interesting work.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Coming Home: The fine work of Patricia M. Ningewance

    On the walls of the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Patricia M. Ningewance’s fiber art of her show, Coming Home, look smaller than they should. A gallery is a great way to present a collection of work, with better lighting and informative descriptions, and relating individual works to a series to better expound a theme. However, in your own home these works would look fantastic. This isn’t a pitch for you to purchase Patricia's work, but to better appreciate the pieces. These are warm works with a life of their own that will give any room a spirit.
     Patricia M. Ningewance is Ojibwe from Lac Seul First Nation in Northwestern Ontario. Patricia’s Ojibwe name is Waabi-bizhikilkwe and she is a combination of both the Bear and Moose clan of her parents, learning Ojibwe mostly from her grandmother who used the teaching methods of word games and riddles, which are akin to self-learning techniques as opposed to tests. Patricia has worked hard to sustain her heritage and especially the Ojibwe language having written two books with the aim of doing so, a thick textbook and a pocket book for anyone interested in learning Ojibwa. Patricia has spent over thirty years maintaining a passion for teaching and preserving her language.
     In her work Patricia uses a variety of fabric techniques and is influenced by different cultures. In the piece, Dene Woman, Patricia employs applique, beading, buttons, and embroidery using the mola style. The mola style refers to small panels produced by the Kuna people who live in the San Blas Islands of Panama, and Columbia. The mola designs are a mix of popular culture and traditional Kuna culture, but are still distinct geometric patterns applied with the applique technique. The more applique layers, the more valuable the piece.
      The use of applique in many of Patricia’s works is finely done and unusual. In her large piece, Mishibizhiw, the applique is very fine. While the design of the sea creature, described as an “entity,” is quite fantastic. The detailing of the applique really adds to the mystery of the piece. The swirling backdrop and the red web in the foreground are used to great effect to set off the sea creature.
     Ric rac braid is also employed. This is where a narrow braid is woven into a zigzag strip. This is used to divide static areas and add dynamism.
     These kinds of techniques used in Patricia’s works can seriously slow its completion. The larger the piece the more time required, which is not necessarily the case with painting. The large work, Snake and Thunderbird, was completed over a ten-year period, much like a novel, with all of the intricacies, such as reverse applique.
     For this technique one piece of cloth is placed on top of another and the design is cut into the top piece to expose the bottom piece. The edges of the top piece are then turned under and stitched in place, as in a regular applique. This can be done with multiple layers of fabric. The technique is used in both the thunderbird and in the snake. The design itself is quite dramatic, throwing lots of energy around with massive flapping wings and the lighting bursting out of the thunderbird’s mouth.
     It’s a wonderful contrast of dynamic energy that would seem more appropriate for a perspective painting or animated cartoon. The limited use of perspective in the scene contrasts with the 2D surface material used to make the piece. The reverse applique helps with the 3D effect, giving a little punch-out to make the image jump into your eyes.
     If only Norval Morriseau could have used such wonderful techniques there wouldn’t be thousands of fraudulent paintings in existence to devalue the ones he may have done himself. Morrisseau’s work is just too easy to forge. Patricia’s fiber works require far too much skill for a lazy forger.
     All the more reason to check out the show. It’s nice to see real work at play.
   Patricia M. Ningewance’s work is on display at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery till January 5th. The opening reception and artist talk occurs on Friday, November 22 at 7:30.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Clash of Art: The Hunger 8 and the October Studio Walkabout

     This coming weekend is filled with events. Two of them are Definitely Superior’s fundraising masterpiece, The Hunger and the other is the more refined non-Halloween October Studio Walkabout. Both are in their eighth year, both in the North Core and both requiring a bit of touring, although The Hunger, designed for more younger folk, might include more staggering.
    Thousands of attendees to last year’s one night Halloween event have spread the word. This year The Hunger is expected to break the four-thousand attendee mark.
    No doubt the number of people wearing traditional and wacky costume creations will also increase. To accommodate Hunger fans, there will be 52 bands and DJs, there will be more venues and more performances, and there will be more raffles and prizes, including “street prizes.”
     Within seven venues, multiple performances include: the Saharan Belly Dancers, an Asylum Side Show Cabaret, Hot as Hell Burlesque, Day of the Dead Go Go Dancers, fire manipulators, drag performances, contortionists video projections, light shows, a Rocky Horror tribute, necromancers, and much more, ending the night with a big DJ lineup for the massive dance party.
     For music, why not try some stoner sludge metal, or punk/ska, or jazz/groove/improv, or instrumental math, or old school hip hop/turntablism, or tribal/breaks/kamikazi/downtech, or psychobilly/punk/rockabilly?      
     The competing venues will also be tightly packed, likely with zombies, vampires, gaming characters, muppets, vixens, Greek Gods, inappropriately dressed nurses, superheroes, tramps, creeps, a man carrying his own severed head, fairy tale characters, creatures, clowns, angels, fairies, mobsters, and on and on. 
      The cover charge of $10.00 will get you into every event and every venue. The list of venues and acts can be found on the DEFSUP website: – click on "events." The Hunger begins at 8pm on Saturday, October 26. And a bit of advice: don't come late! Come early and see it all.
"Riley McManus" Riley McManus
    More for the adults among us is the October Walkabout Tour. An eclectic group of professional artists are showcasing their work over the weekend, offering the public the opportunity to meet them in their home and working environment. This group lives close enough together that the route is a manageable walk.
     Artists include John Books, who will feature his cast bronze figurative sculptures. Alison Kendall will have handmade books available, along with her etchings, which score a variety of materials including paper and deer hide. Sara Link is an internationally recognized potter and sculptor recently inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. James Woodbeck’s sculptures incorporate the experimental with the eclectic, so you may see fairies and gargoyles at play. The stoneware and porcelain pottery that Tim Alexander will have in his home was fired at his studio in Rossport where he has his two-chamber climbing wood kiln. Liz and Peter Powlowski of Strawberry Hill Pottery will have functional and decorative sculptural ceramics for sale in their home. They’ve been collaborating for over thirty years. Full disclosure, I am part of this group as well, showing with John Books. I have my books and some art for sale.
     Admission is free. Maps are available to download at, or to pick up at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Painted Turtle, Baggage Building at the waterfront and various locations in the Bay/Algoma neighbourhood. The Walkabout takes place this Friday from 6 to 9pm, Saturday from 10am to 4pm, and Sunday from 12 to 4pm.
     Riley McManus modeled for this image. She is on the far left with the party hat, and she plans to attend the Hunger 8!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Make Millions! Download the Artist's Guidebook Today!

    The forty-page Artist Guidebook (Download Here) produced by the Recreation and Culture Division of the City is suitable for study in high school and university. Art students can learn how to avoid some of the pitfalls of nasty experience in a real world where we all have to pay rent.
     Many artists have been made dumb and blind by ideology and stereotypes handed down from the 1700s when it became cache for artists to be intellectuals, gurus, and rebels, rather than community-minded craftspeople who were in tune with their culture and not searching for the TRUTH or expressing their emotions. They worked hard, learned hard, and often passed down secret skills from one generation of artists to the next.
     Not that you can’t or shouldn’t be a guru if you think you’re spiritually gifted, or that you shouldn’t express your emotions. Sharing our suffering and joy of life can benefit others, but even these emotional artists need to make money, and if they mistake art as currency in of itself, feeding their soul, they won’t make the effort to feed their bank account. And one day, if they don’t kill themselves (25% of poets commit suicide) they go back to school and learn something more practical.
     So hurray for this guidebook.
     The document is design friendly, which stretches it to forty pages, but it’s an easy and informative read. The artists whose knowledge is scattered throughout the guidebook are credited in the opening pages, with sample images of the public art they produced for the city in accordance with Thunder Bay’s public art program. The program is very progressive with the aim of beautifying the city and giving meaning to our community to make for a better city in which to live, attract tourists and attract new businesses.
     The guidebook gives a bit of history about the public art program, its aims, how it works, and offers artists the opportunity to stay informed whenever new competitions are announced.
     There is also great detail about how a competition works, portfolios, submissions, materials, how to budget, artist fees, the jury, the contract, insurance, how to work with subcontractors, maintenance, and more.
     On a personal note, from an artist who has a better than 50% success rate with grant applications, applying for your first juried competition or grant is the most time consuming and frustrating. However, it’s important to note, that if you keep EVERYTHING, including research, contact addresses, source materials, bios, letters of intent, references, curriculum vitae, etc. on your computer, the next time you apply the process will be much easier. My first application for a competition took me two solid weeks. When I didn’t get the commission I was upset. I thought I’d wasted my time. However, when I applied for a grant, rather than a competition, it took me only two days to get everything in order, because I had EVERYTHING on my computer.
     Competitions for some projects require lots of thought, models and research, so the time involved will always vary. But now when I apply for a grant, there is no frustration. This is also because I know what I like to do as an artist. I have my métier.
     In fact, applying for competitions and grants is a great way to get to know yourself, to know what you like and need to do as an artist. Competitions test your ability and focus your mind. It’s a great start for your journey as an artist, so it would do you a great benefit to read the guidebook and organize the material you need long before a competition is even announced. Note to teachers! This would be a great assignment. This process can also reveal the social relevance and traditional functions of art.
     To get a hard copy you can contact the Public Art Coordinator, Reana Mussato at

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Biindigaate Film Festival and Art Show

     In its fifth year this annual film festival and outreach program features 40 short films, a few feature films, a few documentaries, and an art exhibition at the Definitely Superior Art gallery. Locations for events vary. You can download a detailed program with all the times and locations, here: Biindigaate/Program.  
     The festival was put together by a group of film lovers made up of students, journalists and community members who saw the potential for film lovers and film-makers to get together and bring in films from all over the world. One of the organizers, James Monastyrski, say’s, “We hope the festival inspires young people to make films and get involved. All you need these days is a camera, a Mac, a good idea with a story, and you can make a film.” James is enthusiastic about the spirit and intent of the festival, which is sure to inspire. “These films are a mix of local, regional, and global films. We have films coming from across the world; Peru, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, the U.S., and from all across Canada.”
          A couple generations ago European descendants to this land tried to beat out and replace the culture of the indigenous population. The indigenous might have lost their culture had it not been for one cultural aspect that was and is still stronger than that of our European descendants, their memory.
     As a distinct and much celebrated aspect of the heritage of indigenous cultures, storytelling lasted much longer in its oral tradition than it did for Europeans. Europeans invented technologies and laws that made memory unreliable, unwanted and unnecessary. As a result, Europeans also wrecked the sanctity and trust placed in those who held memories for wisdom, tradition, science, culture, etc. – the elderly.
     “Elders” is a term native peoples use with reverence, because the memories of elders can stretch back for many generations. European descendants use the term “elder” with some derision, where senility is most commonly associated with growing old.
     However, the differences in our cultures make for Variety, with a capital V. This diversity adds to the many ways we have of viewing our world, and the Biindigaate festival is certainly one way to let the light in, especially when we open our eyes and witness the lives of others. Although it can be difficult for some to look beyond entrenched stereotypes, attending a film festival such as this can do much more than entertain; it can bring people closer.
     Great examples of worthwhile indigenous productions in our region can be seen regularly on the Aboriginal People’s Television Network. Incredible talents in music, acting, directing, singing, dancing, animation, etc. are featured and explode on the screen. The humour is unusual and surprising, the pacing different, the methods of storytelling often so subtle as to be mystical and at times unsettling. Even children’s animated cartoons, both traditional and computer generated, contain artistic elements that are at times as corny as our own, and yet simultaneously make deep humanistic statements. The variety is awesome.
     And variety is what you will get at the Biindigaate festival. These films come from people who are Navajo, Metis, Cree, Tewa, Six Nation, Tsilhqot’in Nation, Mapuche, Weenusk First Nation, Inupiat, Algonquin, and more, each with a story to tell.
     And if you haven’t already inferred from the above list, stories come from local talent and from as far away as Peru.
     The art show at the Definitely Superior Art Gallery features the multi-media work of Lisa Myers with two new media works and a performance. Louise Thomas of the Ahnishnabae Art Gallery will be showing an international collection of Aboriginal artists. The gala opening is on Friday the 27th, from 9 – 12pm. The show will be open from 12 – 6pm and runs till October 12. 

Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Value of Comparative Studies

    Last month I took a two-week trip to Barcelona and Tarragona, Spain. Supposedly I was on vacation, but I couldn’t get Thunder Bay out of my head. It seems to be the prerogative of every artist to compare, to be aware, and to want change for the better. 
     Change for the better was for Northrope Frye, our once eminent literary critic, a key element in determining the value of literature as every writer (whether they were conscious of it or not) to improve society in some manner. Frye said one way you could determine an artist’s worth was based on how much positive change they made in society. Not easy to do.
     Thunder Bay has lots of advantages over other cities in terms of our closeness to nature, to the waterfront, to great parks, campgrounds, small lakes, great hiking, fishing, hunting and on and on. In terms of attracting tourists and keeping young people here and making our city more community based we could be doing better. We need more public spaces to congregate and interact. We need to better beautify our downtown cores. We have great waterfront property that could be put to amazing use with some thought and effort. Happily, Thunder Bay is well on its way. 
     Twenty years ago Barcelona was known as an unattractive port for the shipping industry. The port is still filled with thousands and thousands of cargo containers where massive cranes sit on an extensive rail systems. You can see it all from Monjuic’s castle. It’s an amazing sight.
     Everywhere in Barcelona I saw opportunities for Thunder Bay. Although Barcelona is a much bigger city, has a better climate (if you’re not a fan of long winters) and is much older (which attracts tourists), there are similarities to Thunder Bay. Like Thunder Bay, Barcelona is close to nature and has an extensive waterfront. Albeit the natural surroundings have different properties, the sea is warmer than our lake and pigs roam around like our deer on Mission Island (so you shouldn’t feed the pigs), we are like a mini-Barcelona of the North.
     My father was a professor of political science at Lakehead University and he did extensive comparative studies of northern health care systems in Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia, and Russia, in order to learn what might improve health care in our region. 20 years on his research papers are still studied by students at LU. When he got the job as founding president of the University of Northern British Columbia he worked with an architect to design a university that would be more appropriately suited for the northern climate. He had to ditch Joseph Cardinal’s design proposal because Cardinal was more concerned about aesthetics and his legacy than function, and my father, knowing first hand about a lot of the problems our university had in our climate had to hire an architect who was more open minded to actual weather conditions, and more, like women’s safety on campus, easy access from one building to the next (including residences) during winter, etc. The result is that UNBC is a fabulous little university specially designed for the north.
     So, there I was in Barcelona, supposedly on a vacation, but taking photos like mad, not so much because I was a tourist, but because I was thinking like an artist, and had inherited my father's understanding of the value of comparative studies. I was constantly wondering what could be transposed from Barcelona to Thunder Bay.    
     And man, what an explosion of crazy ideas I had. I think we should build a castle in Thunder Bay! Yes, a castle. And I'm serious. The surprise that you just had reading that last line is the surprise that most anyone would have when they found out that Thunder Bay was building a castle. There is no such thing around here. It would be a great attraction and useful if built with our community in mind. Or, we could have a massive and fun park, like Park Güell, a park designed by Antonio Gaudi. We have lots of artist who could come up with fantastic designs, sculptures, mosaics, etc. and have it as an add-on to Centennial or Chippewa Park. Barcelona even had a strange micro-city, Poble Espanyol, built in 1929 as part of the World's Fair. It's an open-air museum that could be emulated here in the North, maybe with a focus on first nation tribes in the area. Come to think of it, the castle could be a mix of European and First Nation influences. It could be awesome. 
     Anyway, crazy ideas aside, even the smallest and most practical ideas are worth comparing. How we live in comparison to others, and stealing ideas from anywhere we like could be a great thing for our city.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Storm Carroll Photography

     On show at Calicos Coffeehouse on Bay Street are images so strong that one can forgive the photographer for not framing the works. With a campfire by the lake, a fish, eagle, bobcat, and canoes, Canadian heartstrings are pulled along with feelings of nostalgia, ecology, relaxation, and adventure.
     At 26 years of age Storm Carroll has been a full time professional photographer for the last five years. He got his first film camera in Grade nine and at St. Patrick’s he studied darkroom photography where students used good ol’ film and chemicals to print. He took courses in broadcasting at Confederation College. Friends dropped some knowledge on him and he switched to digital photography and got the computer programs needed to create great images.
     Of big photographic influence was National Geographic magazine. Amongst all the great photographers Storm admires he’s a big fan of Cole Barash, a young photographer famous for his magazine covers of snowboarding stunts.
     Storm got his career going by taking shots of his buddies fly-fishing, canoeing and camping. Those pictures got noticed and he discovered a market for great nature shots. Ontario magazines and government agencies have been updating their image banks with digital and HD photography.
     And later his career was bolstered twhen he did a half hour video documentary called, North Shore Diaries, about three gentleman fisherman, Ian, Paul, and Brennan, fly-fishing gurus from the North Shore. Storm joined them for an entire fishing season between the border of Pigeon River and Wawa, with a base in the Terrace Bay area.
     This video helped rocket Storm further into the outdoor magazine business. He works for CG Emery International who own Streamside, a fly-fishing company, and the hunting supply company, Backwoods. Their magazines use Storm’s photography in their advertising.
    Two weeks ago Storm returned from Iqaluit and Nunavut where he worked with James Smedley, a writer for Ontario Out of Doors magazine. They were working on a story about fly-fishing and tourism. “The fishing was unreal,” says Storm.
     Storm adds, “You don’t have to travel very far here to see pristine country. I think the North Shore is one of the most beautiful places going. People just need to get out and explore. There’s a good sum of people that do, but there could be more.” Storm adds, “A lot of people look at my pictures and say ‘where’s that?’ They think it’s British Columbia, but the shots are all from here.”
    The art show at Calicos is Storm’s Ode to the North Shore, where many shots were taken while he was filming North Shore Diaries.
     Storm likes that his photography might inspire greater respect for nature. He’s not a fan of any mine or the Tar Sands, “But I drive a car… so I can’t complain a lot about that.” He’s worried that mining operations, present and future won’t abide by better environmental regulations.

    He likes photographing fish, especially trout. “There’s nothing like a beautiful fly-fishing rod lying next to a rainbow trout.” Yet Storm has a good time taking wedding photos. He does up to twelve weddings a year. He finds these shoots challenging. “Every photo shoot is different and you have to learn to react to people and assess the situation. It’s completely diverse, compared to a fish. People talk back. But I do love it.”
     Storm talked with awe about his favourite shot of sturgeon spawning. He saw about a hundred of them one day at Rainy River near Fort Frances where many were nine feet long. “Not too many people have seen that before,” he says. “Normally they stay at the bottom of the lake. They can get really old, a hundred to a hundred-and-fifty years. They come out of Lake of the Woods for spawning. The rivers constantly pump nutrients and oxygen into the lake. This is when you can see them, and then they head back to the bottom.”

         In Portage Creek, while part of a cooperative wrangler program with John George, Storm caught a rainbow trout that weighed 16 pounds and was the biggest steelhead the cooperative had seen in that river system in 25 years. In this catch-and-release program, George collected the data, tagged and clipped the fish.
     The show at Calicos was originally going to be filled with pictures of fish, but Storm’s girlfriend, Trish, advised him to add more variety. If you can’t make it to Calicos, Storm is posting images on a blog on his website at