The Great Lakes Eight: Greatness Art Project Spans Ontario

By Karen Kun, Waterlution

Great Art for Great Lakes (GAGL) is the first project under the “Greatness” banner and is being delivered by Waterlution, a nongovernmental organization based in Oakville, Ontario. Great Arts for Great Lakes will invoke the power of the arts in strengthening Ontarians’ understanding of and attachment to the Great Lakes, by celebrating the lakes through a variety of artistic means.

GAGL is a two-year project that involves a series of arts and learning workshops focused around eight Great Lakes communities. Commissioned artists will co-create artworks with communities that build up toward celebrating the 150th anniversary of Confederation (creating both Canada and Ontario) and produce a lasting digital showcase.

Proposals are still being accepted for the first eight artists. The ninth art project has been commissioned to two Kingston-based artists, who will create a digital showcase called Community Flow that will combine Great Lakes scientific data and small art pieces produced at the local workshops.

great lakes art project waterlution
Credit: Waterlution

The Great Art for Great Lakes project grew from a June 2015 session in which a diverse group of prominent Ontarians drawn from the arts, science, media, design, First Nations, business, environment, culture, youth and sport communities was convened by Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell of Ontario.

During that session, Dowdeswell invited participants to explore how celebrating the Great Lakes can help protect their service to the environment, people and economy, while engendering a stronger sense of identity and pride in our citizens.

The group concluded that a “bold and noble” initiative was needed to champion the importance and value of the Great Lakes, to provide a window on all that is being done and can be done for them, and to make the Great Lakes iconic for the people of Ontario, across Canada and around the globe.

GAGL is grateful to have support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and is a featured Canada 150 project to showcase community engagement throughout this sesquicentennial year. Waterlution will work with local artists to co-create Great Lakes stories with one art project per community throughout 2017.

Communities will be invited to learn about the Great Lakes and offer inspiration to the chosen artists during workshops, to ensure that the art piece created truly represents the many cultural and historical aspects of the region.

Waterlution is working with municipalities to donate these creations to an appropriate permanent space for future generations, such as local art galleries, colleges or municipal properties.

The project will expand into other Great Lakes communities in 2018-2019 to include all five Great Lakes and develop partnerships in the United States and Quebec.

At this time, Ontario focus communities are Kingston, Toronto, Hamilton, Sarnia, Owen Sound, communities of Manitoulin Island, Mississauga and Thunder Bay.

great lakes communities map
Credit: Waterlution

There are many ways to get involved with GAGL in 2017. If you live in any of the communities noted, workshops are available this spring. The Call for Artists will open on Jan. 20, 2017.

Please contact Project Leader Christopher McLeod at for more details.

Karen Kun is the founder of Waterlution and co-founder of Greatness The Great Lakes Project. Follow the project on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates.

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