Thunder Bay·Audio

New Water Street billboard in Thunder Bay looks to make waves as part of community project

The artist behind a new billboard on Water Street in Thunder Bay, Ont., is hoping to make some waves with the public display of a community project entitled "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" (Waterways of Thunder Bay).

Artist hoping to see "ripple effect" of kindness, compassion, and activism

Artist Betty Carpick stands in front of a new billboard that went up this week in Thunder Bay, Ont. The display breaks the mold of the traditional commercial billboard, and instead aims to spread a message of care and advocacy for Lake Superior and the waterways in northwestern Ontario city. (Marc Doucette )

The artist behind a new billboard on Water Street in Thunder Bay, Ont., is hoping to make some waves with the public display of a community project entitled "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" (Waterways of Thunder Bay).

Betty Carpick conceived and designed the "living map" project back in 2018, and completed it with the help of over 100 people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds at events in the city. Now, as the project takes on new heights, she's hoping its message will continue to travel.

"I think the title reflects our attitudes towards the water in all its different forms, I mean, we appreciate the value of water, but we also disregard the care that we take to ensure its future," explained Carpick in an interview with CBC Radio.

"So I think sometimes we have stories around water or care for water that's not always the best. And I feel like we can do better. So really, the piece calls on people to take their personal connections with water to activate and advocate for greater care and respect for water," she continued.

The piece was completed with groups such as Thunder Pride, Thunder Bay Needle Arts Guild, ArtFare Essentials with Jumblies Theatre & Mindful Makers, Waverley Park Concert Series, EcoSuperior, and the Thunder Bay Art Gallery.

"Care for water" is the message of a new billboard that features artwork from a community project focusing on "the good, the bad, and the ugly" of Thunder Bay, Ont. waterways. The billboard can be seen on Water St. near Fort William Rd. Artist Betty Carpick describes the artwork as a living map, void of traditional markings. (Marc Doucette)

Carpick said now, the intention is an "arts process with no ending" as a way to explore, understand, appreciate, and care for the waterways of Thunder Bay in ways that benefit broadly and equitably.

She said the idea to have the art face the community via a billboard came from desire to make the art itself and the conversion surrounding the piece more accessible.

"I know the billboard is often seen as something for commercial purposes, but I just saw it as a way to almost create a giant gallery wall and put it outside. And I love the fact that you can visit it day or night, rain or shine, whether you're walking, cycling or in a vehicle. So there's a kind of lovely accessibility to it that I really love," she said.

Carpick said she hopes the new installment on Water St. will bring a moment of reflection, and also some joy to anyone passing by.

"I'm hoping for a bit of a ripple effect in terms of bringing some goodness and kindness and compassion to the community all the while working to be an activist for our water," she said.

To listen to the whole interview with Betty Carpick on Up North, visit here.

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