THUNDER BAY - With the massive expanse of Lake Superior just outside the window, as well as rocky cliffs, black sand beaches, and birds singing in the trees, Porphyry Island had a lot of inspiration to offer visual artist, Cynthia Nault.
“It was a really cool experience as an artist to receive a gift of dedicated practice time,” she said. “It was two weeks fully immersed in nature and lighthouse living. There was no shortage of inspiration with the cliffs and the water and the birds.”
Nault recently completed an artist-in-residence program with Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior and she shared some of her experiences during the first talk in the Lighthouse Speakers Series held last week.
The artist-in-residence program offers artists an opportunity to live and work at the Porphyry Island Lighthouse. Nault completed her two-week residency last July.
“I created two paintings while I was there and I did some sketches and took some notes home and I created another painting when I got home that was inspired by my time on the island,” she said.
“I found inspiration particularly in the birds,” Nault continued. “There are a lot of cedar waxwings on the island and for me the cedar waxwing represents community because they travel in flocks.”
Paul Chapon, chair of the Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior, said the speaker series is meant to provide the public with more information about the programming they offer and what it is like to live and work on the islands.
“We’ve had a lot of visitors,” he said. “The desire I think is to have more people experience the lighthouses that are in gorgeous locations. The buildings are historic and they are in a beautiful, serene location. What’s not to like? You can go the world over and find people who want to experience lighthouses.”
In addition to the artist-in-residence program, CLLS also provides people with an opportunity to be a lighthouse keeper, as well as student opportunities through the Canada Summer Jobs Program, and day and weekend tours at several other locations including Shaganash Island No. 10 Lighthouse and Trowbridge Island Lighthouse.
“We are looking to expand out charters to the island so we have two trips a week. So people will be there for shorter times but more times on the Island,” Chapon said. “We are hoping with the added charter on Thursdays will allow more people to come and experience the various options available to them at the lighthouse.”
The first lighthouse on Porphyry Island was built in 1873. Additional structures were added to the island in the 1960s and in 1989 the lighthouse became automatic.
So while a lighthouse keepers are no longer required to live on the islands, between the months of June and September, it is still bustling with students, tourists, and artists, which is keeping the history alive.
“I think it’s important to recognize the work that people have done over the years both as lighthouse keepers and sailors, fisherman, mariners in the area and recognizing the work they did on the island,” Chapon said. “But also the wider history of the area, the ecological history, we look at the history of First Nations in the area, as well as some of the flora and fauna.”
Two other speaker series events are planned for Mar. 18 and Apr. 10 at the Waverley Resource Library. Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior is still accepting applications for its summer programming. More information can be found on the CLLS website.