Photos by Sarah McPherson

The Love is in the Air community-engage project encourages kindness, compassion, and open-mindedness for all ages, abilities, ethnicities, and backgrounds. The project was conceived and led by artist Betty Carpick in collaboration with the Solidarity Collective.

Betty Carpick at a maker session

At three free drop-in maker sessions at CoLab Gallery + Arts Centre in early 2023, over 100 participants learned basic stitching, practiced embroidery techniques, and used watercolour pencils to complete the 86 cm x 152 cm unbleached cotton banner. The banner’s colour palette and motif are inspired by the strawberry which, because of its shape, is also known as the heart berry.

In Indigenous cultural teachings, the strawberry plant (odemimin in Anishinaabemowin and otehimin in Cree) is a food and medicine that teaches about creation, community, and love. In other cultures, the strawberry is symbolic of love, passion, and much more.

The strawberry plant (odemimin in Anishinaabemowin and otehimin in Cree) is a food and medicine that teaches about creation, community, and love

A photograph of the completed artwork is being used for postcards, stickers, and two 24/7 outdoor billboards. The billboards were installed on April 3: the north-facing billboard on Simpson Street at Northern Avenue will be up for one month while the digital billboard on Red River Road at Court Street South (behind The Loop) will be up for two months.

At the free, drop-in postcard party on Thursday, April 20, people of all ages have an opportunity to write a postcard to a loved one or to someone who needs a little love. The event is from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm at CoLab Gallery + Arts Centre at 251 Red River Road (inside Goods & Co.).

“The simple act of stitching embodies gentle forms of love like care and attention. We’re happy to animate the collaborative fibre arts project to provide a poetic invitation for the community to think about love,” says Betty Carpick.

“The Solidarity Collective is so proud to have facilitated this project,” says Sarah McPherson, coordinator of the Solidarity Collective, “For two years we’ve been doing a lot of art-based work and it’s a gift to have brought out such a wonderful message of love.”

The Solidarity Collective is a grassroots network of Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC) and LGBTQ2S artists and activists who connect through accessible creative, anti-hate awareness, and healing. The collective came through funding from the Safer and Vital Communities grant with the support of the Thunder Bay Multicultural Association and the Thunder Bay Community Safety & Well-Being Council. The Love is in the Air project is this year’s large-scale media project dedicated to the Collective’s main goals.

Betty Carpick is a land-based artist and educator. The interdisciplinary and intergenerational ways that she offers stewardship are shaped by her Cree and Eastern European heritage. Much of her work looks at social, cultural, and environmental issues in both serious and playful ways through a multi-layered interactive process.