It’s freezing. The lake is the same colour as the sky, white with blueish tones, and out on the surface are ice fishing huts. There are red ones, blue ones, and metal ones; some with tv’s, wood stoves, lanterns, and ATVs and snowmobiles parked beside them. In situ ice huts are Canadian cultural icons, dotted on the landscape, illustrating our love of the outdoors. Even when it’s freezing.
Ice fishing is ancient. No one can say when the first person put a line through the ice to catch a fish, but if you live in a northern climate you can easily understand why they did it. In the not-so-distant past, Ontario’s Highlands were inhabited by pioneering individuals who ice fished in the winter when food stocks got low. Fifth generation local, Collin Burke, the main organizer of the Ice Cube Gallery can tell many a tale about his grandparents and great grandparents who made it through long, dark winters on pickled foods and game. Depending on the fall hunt, they also came to rely on ice fishing to make it through. “Ice huts mean something personal to me and my family background,” he says.
Today in central Ontario, ice fishing isn’t a sustenance activity but generally a weekend activity – a way to be outdoors in the winter. Everyone loves an ice hut, possibly because they are a continuing historic tradition but also because of their distinct way of being part of the Canadian winter landscape.
This February 9th and 10th, three ice huts won’t house a woodstove or a kettle for tea or fishing gear, they’ll instead be decorated with art. The idea was inspired by Ice Cube Gallery’s Burke and other organizers, Gary Blundell, Victoria Ward and Patrick Lightheart’s, love of local Haliburton heritage and a want to blend it with contemporary art and design. The Ice Cube Gallery’s intent is to create a very specific experience that could only happen in a place like the Haliburton Highlands.
Winter is beautiful in the Highlands – the skies are always bright whether it is the sun or stars that shine, the snow sparkles a lavender colour, and the lakes with their sharp expanse make the landscape a unique and abiding experience for anyone who visits. Why not add a special event right in the middle of it?
Imagine walking carefully from the wintery shore of Lake Kashawigamog to a tin covered ice hut, entering and finding art. You’ll be holding a hot cider or a beer, you’ll be with friends, you’ll be cold but dressed warm enough to get out on that lake, take in the three different ice huts for what they have to offer, take some selfies, snack in the beer and food tent with food provided by local restaurant Rhubarb, and then return to the beloved Bonnie View Inn, Haliburton’s most historic resort, for a special menu (reservations required). Maybe you’ll do a little dancing to the retro sounds of Russell Red Records . The artists, Rod Prouse, Chris Hanson and Hendrika Sonnenberg, and Victoria Ward are there, you can talk to them and ask them about their work. If you haven’t had your fill you can go back on day two while the sun shines with a coffee and look again at the art and its icy context.
It’s February, it’s freezing but the day and night are crystal clear, the ice huts begin to glow out on the lake as the sun sets – they become little warm and festive beacons. Isn’t this exactly what we need in February? How better to update a unique Ontario tradition than with art and a shared winter experience that could only happen here.
http://www.icecubegallery.ca/ Facebook & Instagram @icecubegalleryhaliburton