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Pani Bolbolabadi, You are Being Watched, Post-used monitors, 2021.

In nature, we connect – School of Art Alive in the Woods: Art on the Trail Exhibition

December 18, 2021 — 


“In nature, we connect — with the land, with our history, and with each other”

The 2021 School of Art exhibition Alive in the Woods: Art on the Trail featured site-specific artworks by undergraduate and graduate students from the With the Land: Artists Outside course, one of the first university-level courses designed to be held almost entirely outdoors.

Students spent the fall term on-site at FortWhyte Alive, experiencing the changing seasons while participating in non-traditional research methods like walking, observation exercises, interacting with plants and animals, and resting in place.  Students have had the opportunity to consider and expand their artistic practices while spending time on/with the land, deepening a connection to the place. 

“Working outdoors deeply changed my practice,” said exhibiting Artist Shanelle St. Hilaire. “I became much more focused on my senses and felt the need to include elements that stimulate all senses in my work. I’ve also found it more important to focus on creating art about the preservation of the land. With this plant music research, I hope to bring attention to the living being that is the Earth.

Shanelle St. Hilaire, Mother Earth Sings, plant, electrodes, electronic software, Greenhouse in Interpretive Centre, 2021

Shanelle St. Hilaire, Mother Earth Sings, plant, electrodes, electronic software, Greenhouse in Interpretive Centre, 2021

Hilaire’s work entitled Mother Earth Sings, combined plant material, electrodes, and electronic software, the result of research conducted over the past three months on a genre of music called “Plant Music”. To create plant music made by plants, she created her own recording device that takes the energy emitted from plants, turns it into a binary code, and then inputs it into a digital sound software that turns it into music. Making plant music is my way of connecting with the land, as well as bringing attention to Mother Earth to show that she does in fact have a voice – allowing it to be heard in the public sphere.

Madeleine Carlson, Trail Quilt, water soluble embroidery backing, natural materials, 2021 Project Description: This quilt was assembled using water soluble embroidery fabric and natural materials found on the trails of FortWhyte. The quilt is stuffed with cattails and decorated with patterns celebrating the winter landscape and the diversity of flora found all year long at FortWhyte. Eventually, the moisture and changes in weather will break down the materials and the quilt will melt into the ice it’s laid out on.

Madeleine Carlson, Trail Quilt, water-soluble embroidery backing, natural materials, 2021 

“I believe that interaction is a very big reason that public art is important,” Hilaire added. “Public art is seen much more, it is made accessible, it is stripped of its exclusivity. Art needs to be accessible to all and doesn’t need to always be shown in the gallery space. I love that anyone can spot an artwork, even if they wouldn’t normally push themselves to seek it out, and become interested, pensive, and possibly enlightened. Especially if the public is able to interact with the work in such a way where they feel they are contributing to it.”


Alive in the Woods: Art on the Trail ran until December 21, 2021, and is documented on the FortWhyte Alive website.


Congratulations to all the artists in the exhibition! : 

  • Carolina Araneda 
  • Pani Bolbolabadi 
  • Madeleine Carlson 
  • Owen Dunnigan 
  • Alice Hamilton 
  • Omar 
  • Shanelle St. Hilaire  



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