Deco Dawson | 2022 Riding Mountain Artists’ Residency

Deco Dawson using an overhead projector.

The Riding Mountain Artists’ Residency provides professional artists with time to focus on their work in the beautiful natural setting of Riding Mountain National Park, housed in the historic Deep Bay cabin.

Follow along as we feature this years’ artists-in-residence and their exciting projects!

MAC: Tell us a little about yourself as an artist and your practice.

DD: I am a visual artist who uses film as my medium. I am keen to translate my experiences into cinema, whether that be location, stylized representation or relating to a deeper historical understanding of the stories on hand. I have an insatiable desire for knowledge and document my inspiration in film photography, to theatre projections, visual art, and scriptwriting.

Tell us about your project — what will you be working on in the Deep Bay Cabin? 

My project is entitled “Fringes of the Mountain” and will find me exploring the exterior roads that don’t continue through but end at the Park. What might I find on these less travelled roads? These dead ends? Often history piles up in places we no longer deem useful and sit untouched for decades. Surrounding the Park I know are many abandoned one-room schools, barns, and churches, all left in ruin on the fringes of the rarely used dusty roads. My job is to find them, photograph them, and really try to connect the stories being told by them.

My project will also bring me to the Babushka Trail. Here I can follow the architectural remnants and left-over symbols of where my ancestors had settled; built churches, schools, community centres, museums, and set-up farms and towns all along the park Riding Mountain National Park, having been the getaway for these early settlers. What do their sparse, fractured homesteads and towns look like today? The opulence and pride, now with a hundred years of bumps and bruises, what histories are these places revealing?

What is your relationship with the park, and what are you most looking forward to exploring?

I have visited the park often as a tourist, spending time at Elkhorn Resort, Main, Deep Bay and Firth Beach, and the townsite. I have visited in both winter and summer times. I have driven through the park en route to Dauphin several times. I have driven alongside the West, North and East sides of the park and have done some preliminary exploration of areas around the exterior of the park.

How do you hope the park will influence or inspire your project?

I anticipate nothing less than absolute and complete inspiration! I hope to find the discarded gems of 130 years of Manitoba history, primed for photographing and filming, stories and histories ripe for the jotting down. I expect no less than to marvel at the visual beauty and compressive narratives awaiting to be documented.

The Riding Mountain Artists’ Residency is offered in partnership by the Manitoba Arts Council and Riding Mountain National Park.

Interested in the staying in the Deep Bay cabin? Find out how to apply to the Riding Mountain Artists Residency through the Learn – Residencies grant stream. Apply by January 15, 2023 for a residency in the summer of 2023.