River trail’s 2022 warming huts will look so nice on ice St. John’s student design, Wanda Koop collaboration among new additions at The Forks

Kayden Hill-Pitchenese is looking forward to putting his work on ice.

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Kayden Hill-Pitchenese is looking forward to putting his work on ice.

“Excited and proud,” says the Grade 10 student from St. John’s High School of how he’s feeling to be involved in this year’s installment of Warming Huts: An Arts and Architecture Competition on Ice. “It’s really cool.”

Hill-Pitchenese is among a group of students from the Winnipeg high school who have been selected to create a public art piece that will be displayed on the frozen Nestaweya River Trail at The Forks this winter alongside work by celebrated local and international artists.

While schools have participated informally in the past, this is the first time divisions across Manitoba were invited to submit ideas for a project to be funded by the annual competition.

“When you do something in the public realm, it means something and it affects people,” Warming Huts producer Peter Hargraves says.

“As we look to celebrate the stars in the fields of art and architecture… it’s also really important to provide an opportunity for the next generation of stars to rise.”

The St. John’s design — called Azhe’o, which means “to paddle backwards” in Ojibway — will be composed of eight 3.6-metre cedar paddles propping up the gunnels of a stylized canoe.

The concept was inspired by the pre-colonial importance of canoes, paddles and waterways to Indigenous communities in the region.

The warming hut project has become a school-wide endeavour and an opportunity to learn more about local history, says woodworking teacher Aaron Cyr.

“We’re really looking at where the paddle was before it became this iconic Canadian symbol,” Cyr says. “It was a rite of passage for youth to build the paddle, it was a connection to the Earth, it was a canvas for expression.”

So far, dozens of students have contributed to the design, concept, project description and accompanying artwork. It’s going to be a busy semester for the build team as they work on bringing the design to life in the school’s wood shop.

Hill-Pitchenese is ready to get started.

“I’ve always had a passion for woodworking,” he says. “Being crafty and using my hands a lot, that’s the main thing I really like about it.”

The design for Azhe’o was unveiled on Thursday along with five other warming huts that will populate the river trail this winter. The competition, which has been running since 2009, saw 122 submissions from 33 countries.

The winning concepts — three local and three international — were selected by an eight-member jury.

Wanda Koop is this year’s invited artist. Together with Montreal-based furniture designer Thom Fougere, the Winnipeg visual artist has created NIX, a hut constructed in snow and inspired by quinzee shelters.

“When the whole structure is complete it will be immersive and light-filled and Stonehenge-y,” Koop said during Thursday’s media conference. “I can hardly wait to share it with the Winnipeg community.”

Other designs include:

  • Flowing Lands, by students in the faculty of architecture at the University of Manitoba;
  • Curtain, from Alejandro Felix of Spain and Fang Cui of China;
  • Hayspace by Philipp Gmür of Switzerland and Hugh Taylor of Winnipeg; and
  • Meanwhile We Still Dream by Lindo Jia and Jaymon Diaz of the United States.


Twitter: @evawasney

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Eva Wasney

Eva Wasney
Arts Reporter

Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.


Updated on Thursday, November 10, 2022 6:53 PM CST: name spelling error fixed in cutline

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