Manitoulin Art Scene
On Manitoulin, the arts of every kind are coming into their own and are playing an ever more important role in the life of our communities.
The ancestors of Manitoulin’s First Nation citizens had been the only residents of this Island for thousands of years before the fairly recent (1870s) coming to the Island by people of European descent.
It is appropriate, then, that, in modern times, First Nations artists and craftspeople were the first to display their work in galleries for others’ enjoyment and for sale.
There is a strong current of artistic talent that is evident in every First Nation community and in the early 1980s, the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation (OCF) came into existence to encourage, foster and showcase this talent.
The OCF is still there, at M’Chigeeng First Nation, but in the same community there are Kasheesh Studios, Neon Raven Gallery, Nimkee Studios and Lillian’s Crafts (which also features a unique quill box museum) and the Roman Catholic Church, located almost directly across from the OCF, is a work of art by itself inside and out and is worth a visit.
In Wikwemikong, James Simon has his own gallery as does Leland Bell.
All of the artists who operate these galleries have been influenced by the late Norval Morrisseau’s Woodland School whereby the legends and oral history of the community greatly influences the painter’s work.
First Nation artists’ work can also be seen at the Kathleen Reynolds Mastin Gallery at the Deb-ba-jeh-mu-jig Theatre Group’s new Creation Centre in downtown Manitowaning and at the Ten Mile Point Trading Post and Gallery on Highway 6 mid way between Manitowaning and Little Current (at the spectacular lookout).
Over the past 25 years, many more art galleries have become an increasingly important part of our communities.
Some, like the Edwards Studio in Kagawong and the Hettmann Studio near Spring Bay are operated by the artists themselves primarily (but not exclusively) to show their own arts and crafts.
Others, such as Turner’s Gallery in downtown Little Current, Perivale Gallery on the Perivale Road on the west side of Lake Kagawong, the Country Store beside the Inn in Meldrum Bay and South Bay Gallery in South Baymouth each show a range of the work of “their” artists so a few days of touring Manitoulin art galleries will leave you with an understanding of the depth and variety of Island talent.
In Gore Bay, the museum complex does this well and, its main gallery, high above the town by the courthouse complex, features at least two shows of Manitoulin artists each summer. In a bold move, the museum also assumed ownership of a large timber-frame building on the waterfront (by the harbour) which has lent itself perfectly to the conversion to gallery space for individual artists and artisans, as well as providing additional space for other artists’ work and it is also the home of Ravens Eryie Studios where the work of the resident artist is on display, in addition to providing her working space.
In NEMI, the Centennial Museum of Sheguiandah and the Little Current Library have gallery space and, over the spring, summer and fall months, annually mount a number of shows of individual and collective artists’ work. The Sheguiandah Museum gallery also has an annual juried art contest with all entries on sale.
For 35 years, the LaCloche Country Art Show has been holding an annual juried art show. The work entered is largely inspired by the landscapes of the LaCloche Mountains (Killarney to Blind River and made famous by the Group of Seven). Most of the work is for sale. It’s held at the Whitefish Falls Community Centre and this year’s dates are July 5 to 13.
The third weekend in July, this year July 18 to 20, art lovers are, in many cases, invited into the artists home studios during the twentieth annual Manitoulin Art Tour organized by the Manitoulin Fine Arts Association. The venues are many and varied (and usually include all of the galleries already mentioned in addition to many others that only exist during the Art Tour.)
Currently, the local Communities Futures organization, LAMBAC, in recognition of the important cultural and economic contribution of the arts, is conducting a “cultural mapping” program, a strategy designed to connect more and more visitors with Manitoulin’s fine artists, artisans, craftspeople, galleries and theatres. To find out more about this initiative, visit www.manitoulinculture.ca.