Elly Spencer
The arts from up here

Summer has drawn to a close and in northern Manitoba that usually means a glorious autumn with gorgeous fall colours shining in the sun. This year however, we have dull grey skies due to the terrible forest fires burning California, Oregon and Washington states. Even at this distance, they are having impact. We would also, as we write this column, usually be in the final stages of preparation for Culture Days celebrations, a national festival of arts and culture held annually on the last weekend of September. But alas, due to COVID-19 that has been significantly scaled back. Regular readers of this missive will know that Flin Flon’s Cultural Coordinator, Crystal Kolt, is not about to admit defeat, so there will be cultural events to report; more about those next month!

Jeff Hutton, Mike Spencer, and Alex Bighetty in front of their mural in Flin Flon, fall 2020. The mural was designed by Jeff and Alex, and was made possible through the support of The City of Flin Flon, The Main Street Revitalization Committee, Creative Manitoba, McMunn and Yates, United Rentals, Hudbay Minerals, the Flin Flon Arts Council, and the NorVA Centre.

Summer did end on the upbeat, all the same. ‘Art in the Wild’ an outdoor event featuring dance, theatre, music and visual arts took place in Flin Flon Campground, a remarkable boreal forest space within city limits which also plays host to Blueberry Jam Music Festival in better times. The artists involved with ‘Art in the Wild’ took their surroundings and incorporated them into an incredible evening for two audience groups of 85 people who were further subdivided for the performances.

And what performances they were! There was a reader’s theatre/radio play by local playwright Rafael Saray and the “Snow and Bloodlust Collective” all about the television viewing habits of folks who are socially distant (in several more ways than one!). Soprano Kari Rutherford sang an aria on fishing (while fishing, on the far side of the pond in the park), her final performance before leaving Fin Flon to begin a Master’s program in voice at University of British Columbia. 

Karen Clark set up an Art Gallery in the forest with some of her paintings of local lakes and rock formations as seen from a kayak. She was joined by Jan Unrah and Katie Kozak who displayed works of their own. Mark Kolt played a largely improvisational piece on electronic keyboard for modern dancer Kristy Janvier as she danced an original piece depicting a spider mother giving life to the world, which began with the dancer emerging from a black cocoon in the earth. It was suitably eerie and evoked an underworld of undulating movement.

Vocal trio ‘Imrianna Jones’ (Kristin Imrie, Anna Harison and Kim Jones) sang some original songs in keeping with the “wild nature” of the theme and of the environment. Mike Spencer fired pieces of raku pottery which absolutely glowed red-hot in the twilight as they emerged from the kiln then burst into flame as they were placed in their reduction media. It was a spectacular display of the ancient art form and the audience were treated to the finished works under stage lighting at the end of the evening.

The highlight of the evening was the balcony scene from ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by William Shakespeare played with gender-bending seriousness by Alain Lachappelle as Juliet and Landis Yestrau as Romeo. They were delightful and comic and so romantic, even in a traditional Canadian lumberjack shirt.

The inaugural mural produced by the brand new Pineroute Mural Festival has been completed and can be seen by travelers on Flin Flon’s Perimeter Highway (yes, we have one, though it’s only a two-lane road and the speed limit is 70 km per hour. It was made possible by grants or gifts in-kind from Creative Manitoba; the City of Flin Flon; Main Street Revitalization Committee; McMunn and Yates; United Rentals; HudBay Minerals; Flin Flon Arts Council and; NorVA Centre.

The mural was designed and painted by Mike Spencer (BFA (‘09), University of Manitoba; MFA (‘11) NASCD University, as mentor and Jeff Huttton and Alex Bighetty as mentees. This little team has already begun work on the next project, which will actually hang on Main Street, but they are painting indoors on large sheets of plywood as it is already too cold to paint outside. They will definitely bring a new flavour to Main Street, something the arts were meant to do.