Manitoulin celebrating its connection to Lake Huron with public art

An artist from Nairn Centre, Ont., has a sculpture permanently on display in Providence Bay on Manitoulin Island. Julieanne Steedman was chosen to be part of the Great Art for Great Lakes project, which connect communities with their nearby Great Lake.

Nairn Centre artist Julieanne Steedman worked with community to create permanent sculpture

Julieanne Steedman of Nairn Centre, Ont., stands with the permanent art installation in Providence Bay on Manitoulin Island. The artist worked with the community to incorporate stories and photos into the Great Art for Great Lakes project. (Julieanne Steedman)

There is a new piece of public artwork in Providence Bay on Manitoulin Island that connects the community to Lake Huron, one of Ontario's five Great Lakes.

The sculpture, called Stories of the Lake, is part of the Great Art for Great Lakes project.

Similar projects will be unveiled in seven other Ontario communities that also connect to Great Lakes. Along with Manitoulin, public artwork will also be erected in Thunder Bay, Toronto, Kingston, Owen Sound, Sarnia and Hamilton.

All were provided government funding as part of Canada 150 celebrations. 

The sculpture on Manitoulin is the first one to be unveiled. The rest are in the workshop phase and will be unveiled this fall.

The premise behind the Great Art for Great Lakes project is to use art as a tool to connect each of the communities to their nearby Great Lake says project lead, Christopher McLeod.

He says they chose artists who understood the value of social engagement and public participation.

Each artist holds workshops to gather input from those throughout their respective communities.
Artist Julieanne Steedman works with the Manitoulin community’s personal stories and anecdotes of Lake Huron, to create the artwork Stories of the Lake. (Great Art for Great Lakes)

"What does the lake mean to you. What is it doing for you and what are you doing for it and really trying to drive those conversations," McLeod says.

Workshop to gather stories, photos from community

Julieanne Steedman of Nairn Centre is the artist for the Manitoulin project.

She worked with the community to create the piece that now permanently stands in Providence Bay. She held her workshop on Canada Day.

"The stories people told, you know some of them were really hilarious, some of them were really touching, and so it was really meaningful to be able to create a piece of artwork —a lasting piece of artwork— that shows people's connection to the lake."

Steedman herself has a personal connection to Manitoulin Island, as she has spent every summer there since the age of three.

Community art

 Steedman is quick to say that the sculpture isn't entirely her artwork.

One side of the Stories of the Lake art installation in Providence Bay on Manitoulin Island. The sculpture includes stories, photos and other artwork of connections to Lake Huron. (Julieanne Steedman)

"That`s part of the whole part of it as a community piece. That's why I think that if I had come to share a story and then I could come back two weeks later or come back year after year to show my friends and my family my contribution to this community piece of artwork, I think that would be very special."

The metal sculpture is in the shape of Lake Huron and includes a collage of stories, photos and other artwork. It has been erected in the Providence Bay village square.

The Manitoulin piece is the first of the Great Art for Great Lakes to be unveiled.