Billings Connections Trail sculptures unveiled at Elemental Festival

‘The Globe’ created by Hooman Mehdizadehjafari, originally from Iran, is a series of intricate pieces made from laser cut steel transformed into a work of art like no other. It can be seen at the picnic area just past the small craft harbour on Old Mill Road. photos by Sharon Jackson

KAGAWONG—There was a lot to celebrate during the third annual Elemental Festival held in Kagawong this past weekend: the 15th anniversary of 4elements Living Arts, six of the seven permanent sculptures are in place and fall is in the air. The theme was ‘Truth and Reconciliation: to begin the healing.’

Friday evening’s inclement weather had organizers shifting gears: the planned sunset dinner cruise had to be cancelled. Festival goers ate their meal indoors while enjoying a musical performance by Moe Clarke. As community arts educator, Ms. Clark facilitates writing, spoken word performance and looping pedal workshops in high schools, communities and for aboriginal youth. Her approach to group facilitation aims to build bridges through emphatic listening and sharing.

Saturday was a day of workshops: hoop project with Katie Fenerty, drum circle led by Veronica Johnny, and a Kagawong fibre art group led by Charlene Chambers.

Ms. Fenerty had one of her paintings on display and completed it throughout the day. It was the door prize at the end of the evening’s performance by Nick Sherman.

Ms. Johnny led an enthusiastic group in drumming circle workshop. She encouraged everyone to slow down, that “there is time” and to do one thing at a time; to “enter the circle with an open heart, good intentions and acceptance.” A smudging ceremony was followed by several songs, among them the ‘strong woman song’ and the ‘men’s healing song.’

A shuttle bus took two loads of people out to Sandy Beach where the unveiling of Billings Connections Trail and Artist Walk began. Manitoulin’s own Kathryn Corbiere’s ‘Great Lakes Trees,’ which is two jackpines and one Great Lakes tree, stands 13 feet tall. Ms. Corbiere noted that there were countless hours put into the sculpture and so much rebar beneath the surface. Her intent is to depict the notion that “not all is smooth and shiny, that it is dark at times. Aluminum makes sense for the Great Lakes, trees are natural—will rust and go away with time.” There are three trees depicting the past, present and future.

Next on the tour was Quinn Smallboy’s four brightly coloured rings entitled ‘Drum Circle’ which is beside the Giant Game Board. They are 26’ tall and made from welded steel drums. Mr. Smallboy, who is originally from Moose Factory, wanted his sculpture to be in a place where children could play among and between the rings. The four colours, blue, green, white and black, represent water, land, people within the land and change: the past and a shared future. This is Mr. Smallboy’s first public sculpture.

‘The Globe,’ a laser cut steel sphere, sits at the picnic area near the entrance to the east side of the Kagawong River Trail. Designed by Hooman Mehdizadehjafari, who is originally from Iran, he shared that this piece was a time consuming but also made with a lot of love. This is his second public sculpture in Canada, the first being in White Rock, BC.

Michael Belmore’s trio of boulders was unveiled last year and has become as much a part of the River and the hiking trail as the stone benches and fairy doors. Titled ‘Replenish,’ a series of three boulders honours the cycle of life, the laying of eggs, the death of the spawning parent and the renewal of the young that continue the circle. The salmon, an introduced species, is also code for settlement and displacement.

KWEST, also known as Matt McNaught’s corten steel piece, is located on the Kagawong River Trail near the entrance off Henry Drive (near the tennis court). The four pieces are each a different size and shape and represent the four directions: north, south, east and west. Entitled ‘Intersection,’ this work reflects upon Manitoulin’s historical past, inclusion and renewal, the earth’s directions and the environment’s energies. It suggests an ideal balance between humanity and nature, co-existing peacefully.

Tucked in the forest just before you get to the painted blue bridge is where industry and nature intertwine. Robert Krum’s highly polished bronze white tail deer. It took three days to dig down six feet which was the required depth to secure the animals, the tallest standing seven feet tall. The buck has a Ford F150 bumper in its design; the doe a positive/negative image and the fawn which is lying down to the left of the doe has an emerald ash borer design on its side. Beauty of nature and the impact of man and industry come together.

Ted Fullerton’s ‘Ascend/Descend’ was the first sculpture erected earlier this summer. Located at the Park Centre, it featured three cast resin figures on steel lifts. The reason the figures are up in the air is that they depict the mystical earth—a place in between, a place of enlightenment. Each figure weighs about 150 pounds and is made of polyester resin. The direction of the faces represent walking into the woods, the water and up the road, dancing along the horizon.

Throughout the day festival goers could purchase 4e swag, visit the cafe for a bowl of soup, salad or pizza.

Saturday evening’s musical performers included Melody McKiver who played the violin and Nick Sherman a singer/songwriter from Sioux Lookout.

Sunday’s program included a writing workshop led by Kate Thompson, a mask performance workshop and a second guided tour of the sculptures. The weekend wrapped up with a film screening and artist talk led by Paul Chaput.