KAWARTHA LAKES – The Fenelon Falls Rain Garden will soon feature three life-sized bronze canoe paddle figures participating in a portage.
Together the figures create a dynamic procession through the park, a homage to the location’s history; a portage and gathering area of First Nations’ Peoples, the beginning of Fenelon Falls, forestry, logging, and its current use as a recreational park.
The sculpture is one of the first projects for the Community Fund Fenelon Falls that recently launched in hopes of created new opportunities for area residents while enhancing the much loved small town.
Two sculptures, Portage by James C. Smith and River Grove, by Susan Rankin, will be permanently installed as public art in the Rain Garden, located to the south side of Maryboro Lodge, The Fenelon Museum property.
“We want to raise the profile of artists in the community, they live and reside here and make up an important part of the economy and an exciting element of what it means to live and be here,” said Committee Member, Chris Handley.
Smith has over 40 years of artistic experience and is based in Madoc. Rankin has been using the garden as inspiration in her glass work for over 32 years. Her sculpture is a gathering of 10 glass and steel towers, six to eight feet tall. Natural light will showcase the glass elements throughout the day and will enhance stunning colour during the winter months.
“We want to expose the deep roots of the arts community in Fenelon falls, we wanted a permanent display of the importance of art and culture in the community, incorporating more public art in our community.”
According to Handley, the initiative was developed to give people an outlet to give back to the community after seasonal residents continued to come forward looking for a chance to give back financially while also receiving a tax receipt.
“We want to cultivate philanthropy and provide a tax efficient outlet for people to give back to the community in things they’re interested in with things they want to support,” said Handley. “To plan ahead strategically for the hopes and dreams that we think will make Fenelon a better place to be, to continue to be a vibrant community, to help support some of our economic development plans that we have brought forward with the downtown redevelopment strategy and also to bring new and exciting things to the community like the sculpture garden and the amphitheatre.”
The Community Fund works alongside the Community Foundation of Kawartha Lakes, looking for any projects that fit within the mandate of the foundation. That could include, employment and economy, the environment, health and arts and culture, he said.
The Community Foundation of Kawartha Lakes is a community asset, created by and for the people in the community. The Foundation connects people, families and companies with causes that inspire them, working with private donors, service clubs, businesses and charities.
Handley noted that the Community Fund organically developed through the community improvement plan, a provincially, structured program.
“It (Community Improvement Plan) encourages the community to dream big about the future, envision vibrancy to improve the community overall, lots of great ideas came out of that planning process like additional docking, enhancing the level of arts and culture that exist here, improving health care, concepts like that,” he explained. “Logically, we can’t just turn to the municipality, we felt this is something we could begin to think about on our own and drive ourselves, take resources to execute these projects and support the community.”
Ideally, the Community Fund would eventually be large enough to provide an annual contribution for strategic projects within the community, while enhancing the profile for arts and culture, improving docking facilities, and more, Handley said.
The Community Fund has already raised approximately 400,000 dollars to be put back into the community.
“I think it shows how giving our community is and how much that philanthropic mindset exists here, we want to grow that to a local benefit, to make some of that generosity stay here and return the local benefit,” said Handley.
He also noted that a large portion of those donations has been allocated for one of the funds first projects, the stunning, outdoor amphitheatre, The Grove Theatre, the first ever in Fenelon Falls.
The theatre is currently underway and is being built into the garden grove of the Fenelon Fairgrounds. The spacious venue will be home to high-quality professional theatre, live music and events. It is a place where friends and family can gather to enjoy open-air performances staged in an idyllic natural setting.
“It’s an exciting opportunity in the era of Covid when people want to be outside, we hope to see it become a vibrant cultural centre for activities and events. It’s really opportune, which is fantastic,” said Handley.
The group is currently fundraising for the completion of the bronze sculptures and other projects. For more information or to donate go to http://kawarthafoundation.ca.