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Artists invited to hone craft on Porphyry Island

Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior double artist-in-residency program from one week in 2017 to two weeks in 2018.
Lois Nuttall
Photographer Lois Nuttall with Porphyry Sunset, which she shot in 2017 while taking part in the Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior's artist-in-residency program at Porphyry Island. (Leith Dunick,

THUNDER BAY – A popular artist-in-residence program at the Porphyry Island Lighthouse is returning this summer, doubling to two weeks this time around.

Lois Nuttall, a Thunder Bay photographer, was among last year’s class and said it offered her the chance to perfect her craft while showcasing and preserving the beauty of Lake Superior and the historic lighthouse through her lens.

What a wonderful opportunity, she said.

“I wanted to do it because I love the lake and Porphyry was a place I had never been to,” she said. “I loved it just because of its terrain and the various experiences that an artist can have there.”

First and foremost was the light.

“You get the morning light on one side of the headland. You get the evening light on the other. You get this beautiful rocky headland to explore and photograph. You get the view from the top of the lighthouse, which is fantastic of our lake,” she said.

“You get the black sand beaches and the flora and the fauna. You get ancient forest.”

It’s also relatively accessible for the physically challenged, despite the island’s isolated location, southwest of the Black Bay peninsula, about 13 kilometres from Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.

“I think it’s important to document our lake,” Nuttall said, explaining why she jumped at the artist-in-residence opportunity.

“I’m sort of like Wayne Gretzky. It’s my lake and we should do it. We shouldn’t be letting other people tell us what our lake is like. Sometimes I get perturbed when they depict Lake Superior as this mean, mean body of water because there are so many times when it’s so gorgeous and beautiful. It just draws you back all the time.”

The resulting photographs are on display until March 21 at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, part of an exhibit featuring the works of all the artists-in-residence who took part in the program.

The not-for-profit Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior group is also looking for a new crop of artists to take part in this year’s program.

Paul Capon, the group’s chair, said they wanted to expose people to the beauty of Porphyry Island.

“We wanted to bring artists and lighthouses together,” he said. “We had heard from the very beginning that this would be a place for artists, writers, painters and photographers. So we thought having an artist-in-residence program would be a great way to promote the lighthouses and also promote their own art.”

The exhibit includes work by six artists, including a faux sculptured deer head, emblazoned with colourful story-telling tiles. Other mediums include photography, ceramics, ink, oil and mixed media.

“It’s a chance to escape everyday life, paint in the fresh air and experience Lake Superior,” said artist Gayle Buzzi.

Applicants can apply for the residency at the Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior website at

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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