Ice Follies is an ad-hoc collective that presents a biennial festival of contemporary and community engaged art on frozen lake Nipissing. Audiences are invited to engage with works situated off shore from the North Bay waterfront and along the shores of Nipissing First Nation. The Ice Follies Committee includes representation from the three artist-run centres in the Nipissing area spanning contemporary visual arts, aboriginal arts, performance, media arts, and community engaged artistic practices.
Ice Follies Biennial aims to encourage audiences to experience art outside the context of the institution and engages a visceral interaction with the local landscape. The installations, performances and interventions shape a dialogue between art and site.
Lake Nipissing sits at the heart of our communities and becomes an accessible site for a short period of time in winter. A canvas as tranquil as it is volatile, the works are placed in direct harmony with light, water, wind, ice and snow. In 2004, the W.K.P. Kennedy public art gallery coordinated the first Ice Follies exhibition featuring the work of Canadian and local contemporary artists. Following the inaugural exhibition, artist Kim Adam’s piece Minnow Lure,was acquired by the National Gallery’s permanent collection. The shows success prompted an arrangement to present the exhibition in a biennial cycle. In 2012, the event changed hands from the public gallery to a collective with representation from local artist-run centres including White Water Gallery, Aanmitaagzi and the Near North Mobile Media Lab. This new direction expanded the focus of the show beyond contemporary visual art installation to multidisciplinary practice including interactive media, sound art, performance, and community engaged arts events. In 2014, Aanmitaagzi presented the first large scale performance at Ice Follies titled Chi Odjig (Anishinaabe mowin for Great Fisher) choreographed by Penny Couchie with international guest artists, internationally acclaimed Columbian indigenous dancer Alejandro Ronceria and acclaimed choreographer and dancer Rulan Tangen. Also in 2014, the tenth anniversary of Ice Follies coincided with a national conference titled The Affects of Site focusing on site-specific art practice in Canada. Over the years the Ice Follies Committee has worked to develop new models of community partnership with a focus on developing the festival’s community reach with each passing event.