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Ice Box – Art in the Heart of Winter – celebration debuts

Picton residents Vincent de Tourdonnet and Laura Smith enjoy artist (far right) Andrea Piller’s yellow hut ‘Draw’.

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
Prince Edward County celebrated art in the heart of winter during a brand-new event held on the grounds of Macaulay Heritage Park.

Ice Box—art in the heart of winter—made its debut in the first-ever event of its kind on the weekend – in weather warm enough to banish winter blahs, following last week’s Polar Vortex blast.

The innovative public art event is centred around five small, colourful wooden, unheated shacks known as “ice boxes” designed as immersive art experiences, each unique and engaging.

Participants enjoy roasting marshmallows on the fire pit with organizer Krista Dalby (centre).

The aim is to get families outdoors to celebrate winter and bring warmth to the cold, snowy days of the season. A warming fire pit helped the process along, together with roasting (or burning in some cases) of marshmallows provided by the Picton Recreation Committee.

Ice Box has been a year in the making, with local artist Krista Dalby as the brainchild behind the unique creation.

Dalby, along with the artist collective known as The Department of Illumination (think Firelight Lantern Festival) teamed up with Macaulay Heritage Park to bring two full weekends of free winter fun for the whole family. While there is no charge for the event, donations are gratefully accepted with donation boxes located inside each Ice Box.

For those people wishing to warm up, Macaulay House was also open (at no cost) for self-guided tours with interpretative staff on-site to share information about the 1830 heritage structure. Warming soup and bread cooked in the open kitchen fireplace were also on offer. As well, Macaulay Church was open with a canteen run by the Wellington District Lions Club.

Other outdoor activities at the festive gathering place included a dance led by Arwyn Carpenter and snow shoeing provided by the Picton Recreation Committee.

Each colourful hut, themed around a different artistic bent featured artists Chrissy Poitras and Genna Kusch, Hri Neil, Andrea Piller, Nella Casson, Susanne Larner and Sarah Selecky. The public was encouraged to participate by writing a story, trying a wood-cut relief print or building a remixed version of Macaulay House. Or they could discover Boxerton’s den or draw a portrait on a plexi-glass sheet.

Participating artist Susanne Larner inside the red hut ‘Story’.

Visual artist Susanne Larner partnered with local author Sarah Selecky for the project. Larner explained Selecky held three workshops in the community where people wrote short stories.

“We then put it together in a visual mural, the writing fills the mural on the walls as well as what we call the snowflakes in the tree,” said Larner. “It’s been a great partnership with the two of us and her [Selecky’s] first art installation.”

Having co-founded the Firelight Lantern Festival, Larner as a member of The Department of Illumination is no stranger to organizing such events and enjoyed the experience, calling it a heart-warming project, especially watching everybody enjoying themselves, seeing everybody else participate and getting excited about it.

“We were told to take a direction or inspiration from either the natural history of this place or the people history, so we chose the people history,” said Larner. “We took the environment, this land is like the basis of our inspiration and we went from there.”

Community participation has been key to getting out and involved and to feel like people are part of the festival as opposed to just coming to look at something said Larner.

“It’s been a little bit of light in the winter,” she said. “People have poured quite a lot of themselves into these stories, so it’s been quite great.”

School participation has also been a large element as some of the Ice Box artists visited with local schools where they produced part of their installations with the children. Next week, a number of County schools, plus one from Belleville, will visit Macaulay Heritage Park throughout the week for a tour of the Ice Box site.

Ice Box continues Feb. 9 and 10 with closing ceremonies to be held on Sunday. In its final hour, a community procession will include papier-mâché heads, and participants are encouraged to wear a crazy hat or a favourite costume, or bring an instrument.

Some of next weekend’s activities include a mobile sauna (bring your bathing suit!), snowpants yoga, storytelling and live music. Macaulay Heritage Park is located on Church Street in Picton. For more information, visit iceboxpec.org

The Crackle and Pop Dance was led by Arwyn Carpenter, with some wearing papier-mâché blue jay and fox heads.

The view from inside Andrea Piller’s yellow looking out.

Inside Andrea Piller’s yellow hut ‘Draw’

Eight-year-old Lilian Helseth from Picton makes a snow angel.

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