Thunder Bay’s Rising Local Arts Scene

A survey of arts, culture, and music in the city

Erich Otten, Arts & Culture Editor

Perhaps, it is because the City of Thunder Bay is so remote from other major urban centres that its sites of striking arts, crafts and cultural production centers are highlighted. Thunder Bay artisans are working in a number of art and crafts media: knitting, weaving, spinning, jewelry, woodworking, and ceramics to name a few.

Regardless of speculation, Thunder Bay area artists are attracting attention. In 2017 CBC’s Amy Hadley reported a craft labour resurgence happening in our city’s local economy. In recent years we have seen an increasing amount of craft fairs, artisan goods, and creative trades booming. This increased production has generated much demand.

Join me for a survey of local galleries, studios, and craft fairs.

The Craft Revival is perhaps one of Thunder Bay’s most well-known fairs. Founded in 2014 by Maelyn Hurley, the revival takes over downtown Port Arthur each spring and winter. Featuring more than handicrafts and artisan goods, the revival also features aerial performances, live art, wearable art, and consumable craft goods. The Spring Revival is set to take over Port Arthur on Sunday, May 5th, 2019 and the Winter Revival is booked for Sunday, November, 24th, 2019.

Speaking of downtown Port Arthur, the next organizations featured are the Baggage Building Art Centre and Definitely Superior Art Gallery. The BBAC can be found on the waterfront in the historic freight shed building just off of Red River Road. Described as an “incubator” for artists, creators, and hand makers, entry is free of charge year-round for the public. Craft fairs for ceramics, pottery, and the fibre arts happen frequently; additionally, you can sign up for courses in ceramics at the BBAC’s pottery studio. The studio is fully accessible and features workshops and courses for all ages and skill levels. It is fully equipped and features open studio hours for potters looking for studio space.

Definitely Superior Art Gallery isn’t your usual art gallery, operating on an alternative model distinct from more traditional museums and art venues. Def Sup is a not-for-profit collective dedicated to showcasing and highlighting local contemporary artists. Their special mission goes beyond the caricature of an art gallery and expands into what they call the “multi-disciplinary” — featuring workshops, mentorship, film screenings, and lectures, this is a gallery to visit. Def Sup is open to the public by donation and is currently looking for a new permanent home.

Northern Lights Gallery & Studio located at 316 Bay Street is a gallery dedicated to producing handcrafted silver jewellery and hollowear featuring the work of local Silversmiths Linda L. Brown, Alex Christian and Marianne Brown. It is home to the personal working studio of Linda L. Brown, a renowned Silversmith in our community. Another small producer and studio we should be supporting includes Roses & Purls, featuring the handspun yarns, textiles, and craft fibres processed by local teacher and fibre artist Jen Huhta. Huhta’s artistic vision includes wanting to start her studio and shop to provide Canadian hand spinners and weavers access to heritage breed fibres, Canadian fibres, and educational content. Huhta not only aims to promote fibre artists utilizing natural wools and fleeces, she also aims to fiscally help Canadian shepherds by promoting and creating demand for Canadian heritage sheep breeds and by providing access to local fibre sheds across Canada.

As you can see, Thunder Bay has a uniquely vibrant arts scene, which needs to be experienced first-hand.