The village of Fenelon Falls in Kawartha Lakes will soon have two new public artworks, adding to its growing reputation as a cottage-country arts destination.
Nicknamed “The Jewel of the Kawarthas”, Fenelon Falls is already home to the Kawartha Arts Festival, The Fenelon Museum at Maryboro Lodge, the Fenelon Station Gallery, and the Colborne Street Gallery, with a new outdoor amphitheatre and professional theatre company planned to open in 2021.
And now a committee of local residents dedicated to the arts is about to add to the town’s burgeoning artistic activity with the Sculpture Project, which will see two public artworks installed in the Rain Garden south of Maryboro Lodge.
Established in 2018 and chaired by Darcie Kennedy, the Fenelon Arts Committee (FAC) strategizes on arts initiatives, identifies opportunities for artists, and works to increase public access and engagement with art in Fenelon Falls.
“I’d really like Fenelon to become an arts and culture destination,” says Kennedy, who was raised on a farm just outside of Fenelon Falls.
“I’ve wanted to have an arts committee in Fenelon for years and now that I’m actually able to do it, I want to make sure that we’re doing things in a way that involves the local community and gives the process credibility.”
Having recently returned to her home town from Toronto, Kennedy is a practising visual artist and arts administrator whose work has been exhibited in Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, Oakville, Mississauga, Gatineau, and Japan. With her extensive fine arts education and experience in arts administration, she brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Fenelon Falls arts scene.
With Kennedy at the helm, the FAC is bringing a best-practice approaches to the arts in Fenelon Falls. The selection process for the Sculpture Project epitomizes the level of professionalism by which the FAC operates.
The committee formed an independent jury of arts and culture professionals to assess more than 20 responses to the call for submissions for the project.
“We really wanted to recognize the strength of the arts community locally, and to give the artists the respect of a proper, professional process to honour the hard work they invested into their proposals,” says Kennedy of the jury system.
“Rural areas and small towns often get blown off, as if they do these mickey-mouse projects or as if they’re not aware of what’s going on in the contemporary arts scene in Canada. I just think that that is not true.”
The independent jury shortlisted five proposals and two works were ultimately selected.
Portage, a bronze work by Madoc artist James C. Smith, features three life-sized bronze canoe paddle figures participating in a portage. The sculpture is an homage to the location’s history as a portage and gathering area of First Nations peoples and the beginning of the Fenelon Falls community. A plaque will be mounted on the limestone base acknowledging that the work is on the traditional territories of the Anishinabewaki, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga, and Haudenosaunee peoples.
River Grove is a work in glass and steel by Apsley artist Susan Rankin, who has been using the garden as inspiration in her glass work for over 32 years. The site-responsive work, which will be six to eight feet tall, captures the shifting movement of the light throughout the day, creating bursts of glowing colour that dance in the sunlight. As the day shifts, the shadows of the towering columns — a nod to the region’s forests and logging history — will mark time and space.
Both artists have already created maquettes (preliminary scale models of the full-sized sculptures) and the FAC is fundraising to procure the sculptures and permanently install them on large limestone rocks in the Rain Garden as public art.
“Public art can bring people together,” says Kennedy. “We’re seeing, now more than ever, that people need to be able to go outside of their homes and enjoy art in nature.”
The FAC’s timeline originally targeted summer 2020 for installation of the sculptures, but has since postponed due to the pandemic. Thanks to support and assistance from the Community Foundation of Kawartha Lakes, and especially its Community Fund Fenelon Falls, the committee has successfully raised half of the $50,000 required for the project.
Kennedy says any excess donations will be applied to future public art projects in and around Fenelon Falls.
To donate to the Sculpture Project and support further professional arts endeavours in Fenelon Falls, visit fenelonarts.com/donate. Donations are eligible for a charitable tax receipt.