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Ice Follies moves art outdoors onto Lake Nipissing

'What is interesting about Ice Follies is that the art interacts with the landscape. It is always changing and it's really interesting.' Holly Cunningham, committee chair.
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The seventh biennial installation of the Ice Follies arts festival takes art out of the gallery and puts it on display on frozen Lake Nipissing, off of Marathon Beach in North Bay.

The committee chair Holly Cunningham explains that it provides people who might not normally go inside an art gallery setting, the opportunity to experience art in a unique outdoor environment. 

"What is interesting about Ice Follies is that the art interacts with the landscape. So you've got this conversation going on between the weather, and the snow, and the ice, and the vista, and the sun, and the work. So it's always changing, and it's really interesting," explains Cunningham. 

"We invited artists from across Canada, we have one from Vancouver, and we have artists who are local, from northern Ontario, to come and present work on the lake.This year four organizations have come together to present. The Near North Media Lab, the White Water Gallery, Aanmitaagzi, as well as the Nipissing Region Curatorial Collective have all teamed up for this event."

Penny Couchie is the co-director of Aanmitaagzi, a multi-disciplinary arts company based in Nipissing First Nation. Aanmitaagzi presented a series of installations from an on-going project called Serpent People. On the outside of one of the pieces, a teepee, are handwritten writings including poetry and parts of script writing from a theatre production involving youth.

"The story is one that was brought to us by a local storyteller, Perry McLeod-Shabogesic. We've been looking at that story for the past three years with community members from Nipissing First Nation, people from North Bay and other communities, asking questions around the themes," explained Couchie, as people stopped to read the messages.

"The story is about a group of people that were travelling looking for food in the winter time, and they came to the Manitous and were cautioned not to eat the Black Sturgeon from that area. But they were hungry and ate the Black Sturgeon, and turned into Serpent People. It raises contemporary issues we're facing today like, what are we consuming that changes the nature of who we are? What is the essence of who we are? And what is toxic in our environment that we need to be cautious about?"

It is one of roughly nine installations on the lake.

Amanda Burk did not want to miss the opportunity to experience this outdoor gallery.

"This is a great event that happens every two years, and so it's definitely one I didn't want to miss. This is such a great opportunity to see work by artists both from far away and local, and so I think this is really unique not only to North Bay but to Ontario in general."

Emily Ryan had heard about the exhibition and wanted to see it in person.  

"I researched what had been done in the past years, and I thought it looked pretty neat so I came out to see some art. I know art is a huge part of North Bay, so it's nice to come out and support these things" said Ryan.

"It's very interesting. There's a nice little reflective piece that you read before you go into the art exhibit, so you know exactly what you should be reflecting on and seeing, so it has been interesting."

Having explored the various art pieces, Taylar Charron said she enjoyed the experience.

"I think it's really great. It is nice to come out and see what some North Bay artists have to offer. It's almost too creative for my mind to understand, but it is very interesting to see," laughed Charron.    

A new twist this year was a section called Ice Ollies, where young people use snow piles to perform tricks on snowskates.

"It's nice to have a little home away from home, because we don't have the skate park in the winter. We're using what's called a snowskate. They're a brand new thing made by Ambition, and it gives us something to do in the winter when we don't have our normal skates or whatever we do, and it keeps us entertained for sure," said Andrew Belanger. 

A Family Day closing reception will be held on February 19th from noon until 2 p.m., with some of the artists returning to talk about their work.