Gone Fishing with Lake of the Woods Brewing Company

A blog post about Community Collaboration by Denise Lysak (SPARC Guest Blogger)

Where the road ends is where this adventure begins.  Here in northwestern Ontario’s Sunset Country, 14, 522 islands and more than 100,000km of shoreline create the quintessential winterscape for finding the honey hole, fishing for perch, pike, crappie, whitefish, trout, small mouth bass, lake trout, walleye and reeling in the ever, elusive musky best enjoyed with catch and release. Warm sun rays and bright, blue skies are the perfect foil to cold, weather days opening every door to exploration and discovery. 

Photo of ice fishing hut on frozen lake Photo Courtesy of Tom Thomson Photography

Collaborations are central in the creation of arts and cultural activities in rural and remote communities.  As an arts practitioner, I am no stranger how performing arts organizations and artists of all disciplines can at times exist in silos and for good reasons. There is always a project to develop, there is always funding to be sourced, and there are always reports to be filed. The very idea of making room for a “collaboration” can be daunting.  But when you do, amazing outcomes are just a few “more” steps away. This collaboration is between the Township of Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls, as the hosts of the Bridge & Falls Creative Residency program and Lake of the Woods Brewing Company, a local and regional craft brewing company that acts in spirited ways to carve out new opportunities.

Image of group of people looking out of a windowPhoto Courtesy of Shawn Bailey

Out here the crisp and cool ales, lagers and stouts are brought to you by Lake of the Woods Brewing Company, a local, craft brewery named after the fabled, and very same Lake of the Woods that you find yourself walking on. Yes, it is springtime and we invite you to find your true north on this hard water heaven, before it all melts away.  Party kegs of Forgotten Lake Blueberry Ale, Sultana Gold, and Lakeside are the perfect pairing for hearty bread bowls filled with hot and smoky chili.  Crafting these cultural experiences by encouraging collegial conversations around open campfires – best enjoyed with food and drink are community builders and leaders. They have names and families. They are serious entrepreneurs, thoughtful professors, aspiring students and what they all have in common is an inspired love and passion for Lake of the Woods – connecting people to nature. 

Adding colour to the icy white canvas are people of all shapes and sizes, covered from head to toe, with pom pom toques and Sorel boots. Giving shades of grey to the art at play are black sleighs filled with the essentials: orange ice fishing bait minnow scoop, Canadian Tire 5-gallon pails, augers, HotHands hand warmers, 2-litre milk cartons filled with minnows in cold water, mittens, scarves, and parkas. 

Pack your coolers, start the snow machines, and blaze a trail across the frozen water heaven that is Lake of the Woods in winter and spring. What better place to gather than in an ice-hut, crafted with pride and passion by Faculty of Architecture students from the University of Manitoba, under the tutelage of Professors Sinclair, Bailey, and Aquino. Digging deep and doing the work propelling the vision forward with the design/ build are the leaders of tomorrow, students from ED3 / AMP (Aquino) and ED4 (Boreal). Setting the stage for this partnership were Taras Manzie and Dee Lysak, from Lake of the Woods Brewing Company carrying out the progressive social impact investing policies of a craft brewery battling for the heart and soul of beer enthusiasts everywhere. 

Group of snowmobilers on lake

The Township of Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls has teamed up with Lake of the Woods Brewing Company to re-imagine the use of the tiny ice-huts – and, in this way the tiny structures are of benefit to artists from near and far away. The tiny shelters will serve a dual purpose and in the summertime, artists participating in the Bridge & Falls Creative Residency, hosted by the Township of Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls, will use them as glamping quarters.  These tiny shelters provide accommodation for the artist-in-residency program and in this capacity, fulfill a much-needed niche market.  Since 2016, nineteen professional and practicing artists have been a part of the Bridge & Falls Creative Residency.  This multi-disciplinary program has invited, through a merit-based open call for applications, performing arts, playwrights, poets, and potters (just to name a few) to further develop their art form. 

The Bridge & Falls Creative Residency has invited three artists to participate in the summer series in 2020.  They are chosen by a jury, following an open call for applications. These same artists will use tiny studios, during the day to advance their respective portfolios, and in the evening the TINY ICE HUTS will provide shelter and sleeping quarters. As a small Township in rural and remote northwestern Ontario, and I am sure this is true for many others, there is not infinite dollars to advance every programming goal.  Collaborations can play a pivotal role in determining if a project moves from the proverbial “page to the stage”.  The Bridge & Falls Creative Residency program is stronger because of the support and in-kind sponsorship (use of the tiny ice huts as shelter studios) of the Lake of the Woods Brewing Company.  

Glamping in the tiny ice huts is meant to create a symbiotic relationship with the great outdoors. This is the nexus where art and architecture meet. To learn more about the multi-disciplinary, self-guided artist-in-residency program, please visit createinsnnf.ca

Professor Aquino adds, “the structures address the small in architecture. The project responds to the practical, experiential, and social dimensions of ice fishing on the Lake of the Woods. These propositions explored the possibilities of architecture within the context and program of ice fishing, adding new values that included the following design criteria: Gathering, Lightness, Recycling, the Simple, Branding, Maintenance, and Twinship or the conversation between the two huts as both different structures but resembling in nature and aesthetic appearance – two born as one. The projects focused on the full experience of ice fishing and the wholeness of the winter including the winter light, the ice, the atmosphere, the cold, the social life and the body.” 

Collaborations, both figuratively and literally create new trails to explore.   Collaborations serve to strengthen arts and cultural programming and I hope this inspires you to forge new partnerships and to build new external alliances that help to move your project forward.  

Fish on iceIce fishing - numerous perch on ice beside hole

There is a new trail to explore and the invitation is only a click away. Follow Lake of the Woods Brewing Company as it heralds in a new era of impactful change. This little biggish brewery is proud to be Ontario’s northernmost brewery and how it creates and carves out authentic experiences in rural and remote places is commendable. So, in the spirit of cultural spaces the twin ice huts deliver on both the practical and philosophical levels. If you have never GONE FISHING on the ice, I encourage you to do so. And, if you are an artist, of any discipline, looking to further develop your art form, please consider the opportunity to join us, here in rural and remote northwestern Ontario in the summer of 2021. We can’t wait to say “hello”!

Postscript. Your next cultural experience is just a click away, to learn please visit www.lowbrewco.com

 

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