Above: Dunnville Secondary School principal Regan Vankerrebroeck, left, and teacher Phil Cline.

Collaborative Dunnville Art Project Carries Important Message About Water Health

It was born out of the woodshop of the Construction Engineering Technology class at Dunnville Secondary School, and now the ‘Water Wheel,’ a large, moving sculpture that celebrates our connections to local waterways, has been installed at the school where it will continue to tell its story. 

Right: Students Gabe and Josh pose with teacher Phil Cline, artist Gina Mcintee, project collaborator Lynda Henriksen, and Great Art for Great Lakes staff (photo taken at project’s outset, prior to Covid-19 restrictions

“This was the third project Dunnville Secondary School has worked on with Great Art for Great Lakes, an organization that has provided students with direct connections to the professional arts community,” said Regan Vankerrebroeck, Principal at Dunnville Secondary School. “This particular project has challenged students to look at the importance of water health and how our understanding of our relationship to it has evolved over time and through the lens of other cultures.” 

Last winter, prior to the Covid-19 shutdown, the school welcomed visitors including Dunnville artist Gina Mcintee, the lead artist on the project, and collaborator Lynda Henriksen, who is a Water Walker – part of an Anishinaabe initiative dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of water and the need to protect it. During a school-wide assembly, Henriksen demonstrated a water walk to share the traditions and wisdom that would be embedded within the finished artwork.

“What happens to the health of our water has far-reaching consequences for all of us,” Henriksen pointed out during the assembly, which took place at the end of February. “We come from water, our bodies are made up largely of water, and because of this, we carry a responsibility to it.”

Right:Student Abby works on a paddle during class (photo take at project’s outset, prior to Covid-19 restrictions)

That was the artistic vision for the piece, and the knowledge and skillsets of Dunnville students helped bring it to life. The Grade 12 Construction Technology class was responsible for the onsite construction of 28 paddles that became part of the windmill-like sculpture. Then, the paddles were to make their way to other Grand Erie schools and Haldimand sites to be painted, though the pandemic altered those plans slightly. Working within public health restrictions, however, nearly 300 local residents were able to participate safely in decorating each paddle over the last several months, with the help of True Experiences Supportive Housing and Community Work Program and the Haldimand-Norfolk Literacy Council. Each paddle is painted with 13 segments representing a turtle’s back, a reminder of the 13 moon cycles in the calendar year.

“When you introduce art into technology classes, it opens up new possibilities,” said teacher Phil Cline, whose students were responsible for the construction elements. “Students see the connections to architecture, fabrication, and product design, and it can set them on a new path.”

The project connects to a number of Grand Erie priorities, too, touching each of the pillars of its Multi-Year Plan: it combines technology and achievement to complete the work, which then delivers an important message about environment and well-being, all made possible thanks to community contributions.  

The final sculpture’s fluid elements now serve to impart the Water Walkers’ message for all who view it.

Photos by Grand Erie Communications

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