Some visitors come to Yellowknife for the aurora, some for fishing, others for camping.

For artist Jonathan Havelock, it was tree trunks that brought him to the NWT capital.

He has made it his mission to create a forest of tree trunks in photos.

“I’m travelling across the country and I’m creating a national forest installation. It’s going to be made up of tree trunks, maybe 200 to 300 images that could be anywhere from 90 inches tall to 15 or 20 inches wide, as a standalone or, alternately, constructing other trunks that are going to have multiple images you can walk around,” Havelock said of his artistic vision.

Between Aug. 27 and Aug. 29, Havelock, an Edmonton resident, was in Yellowknife consulting with local photographers Bill Braden, Lee Sacrey and Sonya Wall. Called The Forest — Common Ground, his project is taking him to every province and territory. The social interactions are compelling too, he admitted.

“These trunks are important but I very selfishly decided I’m going across the country because I want to meet people,” he said.

He said he’s on this journey for three reasons: climate change, a better future and for the country to unite.

“Our regions are still not getting along, so this is about unity, to create a national forest, take it across the country, and hopefully people can feel proud,” Havelock said.

He also desires an Indigenous cultural perspective, “which is going to be a lot of work.”

Havelock said he has just started reaching out to the communities.

“I know Lee and Sonya (who are Indigenous), for example, can be very helpful in that regard and I’ll be relying on them and others to guide me to make sure that whatever is produced is very respectful and reflects Indigenous culture accurately,” he said.

Sacrey said Havelock is open to learning as much as he possibly can about issues that have impacted Indigenous people across the country.

Havelock acknowledged, “I do have a lot to learn. I recognize that, but I think if we work together, what we produce will be spectacular.”

He said he has about 90-100 photographers lined up to work with him to supply him with photos of trees from across Canada.

Havelock started his mission in September 2020 in Alberta, specifically in Calgary, Elk Island National Park and Jasper National Park.

Before he arrived in Yellowknife on Aug. 27, he had also been to Vancouver Island and Yukon.

His next stop will be in Nunavut, Sept. 3 to Sept. 6.

“What is interesting there is that they don’t have a lot of trees. In fact, I don’t think they have any that are suitable for shooting in the Iqaluit area,” Havelock said.

He plans to ask a photographer to shoot images of interesting ground coverings, and he thinks he will build an inuksuk style structure and mount images on it for people to view.

His cross-Canada trip is scheduled to end Oct. 26. Havelock said he’ll then start editing, which “will probably take me four, five or six months.”

Next comes building the installation to have something to take to sponsors to create the exhibit, which he guesses will cost approximately $500,000.

“Right now, I’m financing the venture. I’m retired, worked hard, so I decided this is a way for me to spend my retirement,” he said.

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