The outdoors was their art gallery. Nature was their medium.
For two weeks this summer, the forests, fields and shoreline of Wood Point were home to the works of nearly two dozen local, national and international artists.
The massive art project was the inspiration of visual artist John Haney, who lives in an 18th century home on a 220-acre piece of rural property in Wood Point with his wife, poet Amanda Jernigan, and their two young boys.
From sculptures to paintings, from photography to performance art, the installations spread over the landscape were as varied and unique as the artists who contributed to the project, the inaugural year for the initiative.
“I wanted to get some thoughtful and interesting art happening here,” says Haney.
Haney says he’s thrilled his vision came together, even turning out even better than he imagined when he first started planning the project.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” he says.
One of the main concepts behind the project, says Haney, was to be able to share the property and its deep history with others.
“I really wanted to honour that and talk about that.”
Having acquired the property in 2013 from Ernest Barnes, who had been hesitant to separate himself from it as it had been in his family since 1768 when his ancestor John Barnes landed a boat on this shore to secure a land grant, Haney says he moved his family here from Hamilton, Ontario last year.
But Haney and his wife are no strangers to the Sackville area. The two actually met as undergrads at Mount Allison University more than two decades ago and have been together ever since. They’ve moved to various locales over the year – including living in Sackville several times – and Haney says it was always their plan to move back.
They finally got that opportunity last year and Haney says he’s been busy ‘homesteading’ ever since. From carving trails through the woods to tilling up a vegetable garden, from making pickles and jams to laying out five cords of firewood, Haney says the property has become somewhat of a sanctuary for him and his family.
“I was unleashing eight years of country boy stuck in the city.”
A massive rainstorm last fall that blew shingles off his roof, filled his basement with water, and downed a number of trees on his property had him realizing even more the extent to which he was creating a refuge and future-proofing his property, arranging it like an ark – hence the name for this year’s Wood Point Art Projects, The Ark.
Inspired by the need to share some of these ideas, Haney sent off emails earlier this spring to about 20 artists he had come to know over the years to invite them to join him in using the varied elements of the property as a setting for their works.
“I just thought, I really want to make something happen here.”
He thought he might be able to peak the interest of at least 10 of those artists – he ended up with 22 after word began to spread. The project inspired excitement, despite the fact he had no real funding to lend to the first instalment of the project. He did pay for any of the artists’ related shipping costs and his family offered up their home and cooked meals when they came to install their works.
“It was great, it was like a big family reunion.”
Haney says he is hopeful the Wood Point Art Projects – a free and intimate art presentation – heightens the audience’s awareness of the landscape and also adds to Sackville’s already lively contemporary art scene.
Artists that contributed to this year’s event include the likes of Shary Boyle, Bucky Buckler, Jon Claytor, Patrick Cruz, Will Gill, Shamus Griffith, Lacey Decker Hawthorne, Paul Henderson, Thaddeus Holownia, Graeme Patterson, Mark Prier, Ambera Wellman, among others.
Haney says he is considering doing another similar project next year as he had a lot of fun putting this first one together.
“I like the idea of this big, wooded property being peppered with art.”
The project ran from July 27 to Aug. 11.