Story by Tara George, Photo by Dee Larocque
It really was the perfect way to end off a successful year for Lora Northway. The community/youth outreach coordinator at Definitely Superior Art Gallery was named one of the recipients of the Emerging Cultural Leaders Award by the Artist-Run Centres Collective & Collectives of Ontario (ARCCO). Known for acknowledging and awarding those with long-standing dedication to the artist-run culture, this year ARCCO introduced a new award category to recognize emerging talent who “demonstrates initiative, creativity, generosity, and excellence.” Northway, who received her award among her peers and colleagues at ARCCO’s national conference in Toronto, is appreciative of the honour, and shares that “It’s important to acknowledge all those working in the arts, not only those with long-standing histories, but also those with a growing passion for it.”
Artist-run centres, such as Definitely Superior Art Gallery, are an integral part of the art culture in Canada. Northway explains that many artists find their starting point at artist-run centres, especially experimental artists. As an artist, educator, and outreach coordinator, Northway is not only part of the artistic landscape of our community and beyond, but she also plays a significant role in moulding it, most notably through the three youth programs she launched: Die Active Art Collective, Neechee Studio, and inVISIBLEink. These programs highlight the talents of young local artists. Specifically, Neechee Studio and inVISIBLEink focus on Indigenous youth and LGBTQQ2S youth, respectively. In her seven years at Definitely Superior, she has become a voice for emerging artists in the north, and in the last year has been invited to speak twice about the importance of art and culture in our communities. For her speaking engagement at the Dream Big conference in North Bay last summer, Northway brought along eight Die Active graffiti artists and they worked all week to create a 100 foot mural; the initiative sparked North Bay to establish a youth art collective.
With award in hand, what’s next for Northway? Well, apparently there are two big things that have emerged as a result of the award. Unfortunately for us they are currently a secret, but Northway is an active blogger and all secrets will be revealed in due time, so stay tuned. In the meantime, good things are happening on the local arts and culture scene, and, according to Northway, “Thunder Bay’s presence in Canada is vibrating a bit louder.”
Find Northway’s blog at loranorthway.com.