An Exploration of Thunder Bay’s Public Art Scene
By: Sanjana Sharma, Staff Writer
When I first came to Thunder Bay, the city’s picturesque skies mesmerized me. On some days, it was sunshine that mingled with the clouds above me, and at nights, it was the stars that embellished the dark, serene sky.
A few days after arriving, I went Downtown for a scavenger hunt organized by the university. On that short trip, a few abstract murals and a metal sculpture caught my attention. The graffiti reminded me of similar artwork back from my hometown, New Delhi, India, which really excited me as my best friend and I used to go to different places while I was still in New Delhi, to discover murals and appreciate art. There is a non-profit organization called St+art that works in public spaces in India to create more art, which is similar to the recent trend in Thunder Bay of installing public art. The idea of getting public masses more involved in art than ever before is very fascinating.
This adds to the beauty of Thunder Bay.
When I first started learning about public art in Thunder Bay, I was amazed to find that there are over 400 individual pieces that have been installed throughout the city. To name a few, the Vickers Street Bridge Sculpture of John and Catherine Vickers by John Books, Wild Life by Brandon Vickerd, and The Angler and the Fish by Krzysztof Zukowski stand apart as reminders of history, wildlife and environment, respectively, in the city’s busy life. As pieces of art, they have been used to express a range of ideas, which are centered around the significance of Thunder Bay. This helps viewers take a break from the rush once in a while, and appreciate the ideas, efforts and emotions that go into creating art, which many would say is the foundation of life.
When asked about his opinions on the public art scene, Yamandeep Singh Malhi, a Life Sciences student at Lakehead University, said, “The people who have displayed art in the public always have a message, a story. Their work is free for interpretation. Sometimes when I see art, I am so stunned by the ideas and the work that goes into that art, like a painting can take so long to be completed.” He adds, “There is this one lady who made a colored portrait of my cousin sister at Folklore festival. When I looked at the painting, I was amazed; I wasn’t expecting that! Making that portrait must have been a lot of work. Sometimes, art really inspires me. It’s a challenge in itself as to how perfect, how creative a person can get with those colors.”
It must be noted though, that art is an expression of ideas, which means that art is not only limited to paintings and sculptures. Poetry, dance, music, creativity — everything is art. And fortunately, Thunder Bay acknowledges and appreciates all forms of art. For example, Movie Nights in the Park at Prince Arthur’s Landing is a part of the city’s summer programming, where the city hosts a series of free film screenings to appreciate and promote local artists/producers. Pulse by Scott McKay; Written Art Installations throughout Prince Arthur’s landing, which feature sandblasted text onto granite block; Embedded History by Studio Kimiis; and SnowDay (an annual snow carving event) are among some other works/events that bring the like-minded people and artists of Thunder Bay together.