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'I love my city': Metis artist finds inspiration in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Five years ago, two-spirited Metis mosaic artist Michel Dumont was at a Thunder Bay methadone clinic. Today, he's showing his artwork in Toronto. And therein lies one of the great strengths of Thunder Bay, Dumont told CBC - the city's ability to celebrate it's people, no matter what.

Thunder Bay's issues similar to those faced by other cities, Dumont says

Michel Dumont, left, speaks about his love for Thunder Bay during a Superior Morning pop-up show at Roosters Bistro on Monday morning. (Michel Dumont/Facebook)
A friendly city. A vibrant city. A strong city. Those are some of the descriptions of Thunder Bay you'll hear in a video series we're launching this week celebrating Thunder Bay. Artist Michel Dumont is featured in the first video. 12:01

Five years ago, two-spirited Metis mosaic artist Michel Dumont was at a Thunder Bay methadone clinic. Today, he's showing his artwork in Toronto.

And therein lies one of the great strengths of Thunder Bay, Dumont told CBC - the city's ability to celebrate it's people, no matter what.

"Thunder Bay has its strength in that it allows for people to fall down at their lowest ebb, and then it can celebrate them in their achievements afterwards," he said. "I love that about this city."

Dumont spent much of the summer in Toronto, both showing his art and working on a project at Ryerson University.

While there, Dumont said he worked alongside people from other Canadian cities, as well as people from England. And, he said, they've all read the recent headlines about problems in Thunder Bay.

We have the same issues as large cities.- Michel Dumont

But Dumont never misses an opportunity to defend his city.

"We have the same issues as large cities," he said. But, Dumont adds, "We have everything. We have a metropolitan experience if you want that, we have a rural experience if you want that."

"We have small communities. We have a medical community, we have a legal community, we have an artist community. We have a symphony. We have so many wonderful things that other cities ... in other areas of the country do not have, because there's a bleeding of talent to other, larger cities."

Creates mosaics with vintage tiles

Dumont is a mosaic artist, creating images from tiles; specifically, he said, recycled floor and ceiling tiles from the 50s, 60s and 70s. He began the work about 20 years ago, after finding some sample tiles discarded in an alley behind a south-side tile and bathroom store.

"They're all beautiful, and they're all indicative of the decade that they were produced," he said. "I think it's a shame for them to end up in a landfill."

"What I do is I recover these sample tiles, and I mix them with modern tiles," Dumont said. "I have a back injury, and so making artwork with a hammer really appealed to my anger and my pain. But then creating something beautiful out of those broken pieces, it's sort of like my life."

City is truly 'home' for Dumont

And as an artist, Dumont has found a lot to love about Thunder Bay, as well. The city, and its surroundings, have given him opportunities to use lessons taught to him by his high school art teacher, Lorna Brown.

"She taught me, at a very young age — I'd say in Grade 9 — to open my eyes and look around," Dumont said. "If you can see it, you can try to express it, and you can try to convey that awe."

"And I think Thunder Bay is in the middle of such awe."

Now, Thunder Bay is truly home for Dumont and his family.

"I'm a queer, two-spirited individual, and I was one of the first out gay men in Thunder Bay to be allowed to be given a child to raise," he said. "He's my second-cousin, and so I kept him within the family."

'A great place to raise families'

"The people that I grew up with, and people I went to university with at [Lakehead University], they knew me as a person, and they knew my character, and they trusted me with this baby," Dumont said. "That's one of the reasons why I stayed ... so he would know his mother and his sisters."

"It's a great place to raise families," Dumont said.

Dumont is featured in the I Love My City video series, produced by CBC Thunder Bay and Theymedia.