By Pat Forrest

Local multi-disciplinary artist, arts educator, and environmentalist Betty Carpick will soon be inviting people to tell stories about their relationships to water in a series of free workshops in Thunder Bay. During five public sessions, people of all ages and abilities can use embroidery and pigments with a water-inspired palette to present images and words that reflect their connection to Lake Superior and the Great Lakes.

Betty Carpick—local multi-disciplinary artist, arts educator, and environmentalist

The sessions are part of the Great Art for Great Lakes initiative, hosted by Waterlution, a Canadian not-for-profit organization that has, since 2003, worked with a broad network of individuals, organizations and communities with the understanding that everyone has a vested interest in water.

Earlier this year, Waterlution called for eight participatory, community-based art project proposals from local artists or artist collectives. The projects needed to incite community dialogue about the Great Lakes and evoke what the Great Lake in their community means to its people. Participation from the public and the artist in co-creating a community-based, Great Lakes-themed artwork under the direction of the artist was a mandatory requirement of this commission.

For Carpick’s Thunder Bay workshops, sensory prompts, music and poetry will help spark ideas and dialogue around the creation of a Great Lakes-focused mural where 144 cotton squares will be stitched onto a grid of a 7’ x 7’ ink drawing of the Great Lakes on fabric. Underneath each square, participants can write their thoughts with the choice of stitching it so their words can be private or public. A selection of photographs of the process of making will accompany the installed assemblage.

Of Cree heritage and originally from northern Manitoba, Carpick has lived beside Lake Superior for over two decades and said that this has strengthened her relationship to the land and the water. She’s excited about the project because of its ability to engage a diverse population and encourage looking at things in a different way.

“For me, community-engaged arts present an opportunity to create and share a springboard for creativity, skill development, camaraderie, and storytelling in an accessible, friendly, and non-threatening way. I believe that just one new idea or interaction can create positive, long-lasting change,” she says.

The project launch is Wednesday, July 19 at the Live on the Waterfront concert at Marina Park from 5-8 pm. Carpick will have a table with information on the project, some demo visuals, and a sign-up sheet for the maker events.