Forest to River: Where Art, History & Inspiration Flow

Forest to River: Where Art, History and Inspiration Flow

As some of you may know, the summer of 2022 holds big milestones for Eastman Tourism and four Eastern Manitoba businesses. Last year in 2021, we released the Experiential Tourism Program to help grow passionate, unique businesses while adding more incredible adventures and experiences in Eastman.

One of these dedicated participants was Pinawa Art 211, where, with the guidance of our Experiential Coaches, they have created an amazing, eye-opening experience titled Forest to River: Where Art, History and Inspiration Flow.

Today, you’ll learn more about this experience via Eastman Tourism team member, Skylor.

An Experience for Everyone!

Forest to River has many unique elements to it. It’s an experience that perfectly combines art, history, and nature while the individual participants embrace their own artistic identity and mark. Even the art activity that you’ll be doing comes with a delightful twist, which we’ll talk about shortly. Another aspect that I love is that Forest to River is an experience for anyone and everyone – whether you’re an avid painter or have never touched a paintbrush in your life.

For some background, I identify closer to the latter. I like to think of myself as a creative person, but when it comes to painting or drawing, I’m completely and utterly lost. So it’s safe to say that when I arrived at Pinawa Art Gallery to partake in this experience (not really knowing what we would be doing for the afternoon), I was beyond nervous. Now, this probably seems quite dramatic and silly to be nervous, but I’m just a dramatic and silly person at times; plus, paired with past encounters with other art experiences, sessions, and activities being met with frustrated sighs and complaints (among other words) by the instructor probably didn’t help. But I digressed and accepted becoming the next Picasso just wasn’t in my cards.

The reason why I bring this up is that I think a lot of people disregard experiences involving the arts for this very reason stating, “This sounds like so much fun! But . . . I can hardly draw a stick figure, so how could I possibly do this?!” then quickly retract wanting to go at all. For people like this reading, hold your horses! Coming from a person exactly like that, I can tell you that the individual’s skill level doesn’t matter for this experience. There are no cross words spoken, no micromanaging over your masterpiece, and no bad stroke or dab of the brush; only your own creativity with support and guidance if you need from the fabulous local artist who will be you’re host and guide for the day.

Now that we have that out of the way let’s start the fun!

Melding Art, Nature, and History Together

You’ve probably put together that you’ll be travelling to Pinawa for this Experience. The lovely, passionate, and wonderfully crazy group I was with were the Experiential Coaches and the business owners who participated in the program, so by this point, we were all pretty chummy with each together.

We gathered inside the Pinawa Art Gallery (which is run by Pinawa 211) to meet our local guide, hosts, and artists, Kelly Klick and Arlene Bohn. The hosts do change from experience to experience, but all of them will be one of the Gallery’s local, talented artists.

The first activity was a trail walk on the Ironwood Trail with Kelly. The trail offers gorgeous sights, with large trees nestled along the paths and the Winnipeg River gently flowing mere metres away. This trail used to be an important trade and travel route and is now part of the TransCanada Trail.

Let Mother Nature wash over you as you trek, get your hands in the soil, let the cool breeze that trails off the river immerse you, and let nature inspire you. Listen as your guide shares history and stories that linger on the Ironwood Trail while highlighting two historically important women artists – one from a colonial perspective (Francis Anne Hopkins) and the other indigenous (Daphne Odjig). Though both have different stories to be told through their passion for art, they left their mark on the world by paving the way for female artists and continue to inspire today’s artists through their fascinating, beautiful work.

I would love to share their stories with you, but I firmly believe the best way to learn about these two impressive women is by listening to your guide while set amongst the backdrop of Pinawa’s breathtaking landscape. I will say that their dedication, talent, and avant-garde are monumental and awe-inspiring.

Now, there is one more thing you’ll be doing during all this exploring of nature and the past – collecting pieces of nature. Why, you may ask? Because these will be your art materials! From pinecones to twigs, grass to tree bark, and the very dirt beneath your feet, anything that catches your eye or sparks your imagination can be used to create your very own masterpiece, which leads us to our next activity.

Create Your Masterpiece

Once you have collected your materials, you’ll be led to an outdoor gazebo along the water to have a lunch of soup, biscuits and jam, and tea. After your meal, you’ll start working on your piece. If there is poor weather, you’ll work in the Gallery (which is where my group and I did our session due to very cold and wet weather). But no matter where you do this activity, you won’t be disappointed!

And the plot thickens! The canvas that you’ll be working on isn’t your typical, run-of-the-mill canvas. Instead, you’ll create on a small handcrafted, wooden paddle. The paddles are crafted by a local woodworker specifically for Pinawa Art’s Experience. Using your collected materials, paint, and your imagination and creativity, you’ll turn the bare paddles into stunning art pieces while the hosts share more stories and techniques that you can use and provide support if needed.

The thing about Forest to River is there are no rules or wrong techniques, colour pairings, or placements. The Experience’s heart and soul is about you unleashing your artistic side, discovering your creative voice, and immersing yourself in art.

About Pinawa Art 211 & the Community of Pinawa

This completes the official Forest to River Experience, but it doesn’t have to be over. Stick around for a little while to visit the Gallery or even explore Pinawa for the rest of the afternoon!

Pinawa Art Gallery is a non-profit arts organization run by Pinawa Art 211 and showcases the work of local artists from Pinawa and surrounding areas. The artists range from novice to emerging and established artists. Their artistic interests are just as diverse as the mediums they choose and include painting (oil, acrylic and watercolour), pottery and sculpting, photography, fibre art and jewelry.

But be warned – people could spend hours browsing the Gallery, examining the precious works of art and leave with quite a few shopping bags in hand 😉 I left with a beautiful piece created by Arlene Bohn, which is currently hanging up on my wall.

The initial focus of Pinawa Art 211 was creating art and marketing, but the group quickly became known for creative arts programming, which led to an expanded membership of artists from surrounding communities of Elma, Lac du Bonnet, River Hills, Whitemouth, Beausejour, Lee River and Bird River. With their dedication, Pinawa Art has provided years of support to artists while introducing people to the world of art through programs, exhibits, classes, workshops, and lectures.

After your time at the Gallery, explore the community of Pinawa!

Pinawa Heritage Sundial – The Pinawa Heritage Sundial is a horizontal dial stretching 10 metres square, with a gnomon 5 metres high, and is designed specifically for the latitude and longitude of the site, incorporating 12 heritage icons depicting the Eastman region, themes of the First Peoples, La Vérendrye, the fur trade, the development of hydroelectric power, industry, research, as well as others.

Pinawa Suspension Bridge – Located off the Alice Chambers Trail, the Pinawa Suspension Bridge is 54 metres long, 1 metre wide and was built by a group of volunteers and completed in the fall of 1998. Even if you’re not adventurous enough to cross the bridge, it is still quite a sight to see!

And keep a lookout for deer! Which really shouldn’t be hard as Pinawa is the Deer Capital of Manitoba. You’ll spot these adorable creatures everywhere in town, munching on grass in parks and lawns and wandering about in town. Please be respectful of the deer and other animals you’ll see during your visit. Good practice is not to feed wild animals and admire them from afar.

Visit Pinawa Art Gallery’s website to learn more and to reserve your spot! Forest to River’s first date is June 25 and will occur once a month (July 23, August 20, September 17). Other dates can be arranged for groups but must have a minimum of 4 people registered to run and up to 10 people maximum.