Art exhibit showcases blue rope and the creative ways northerners use it

Artist Mike Mitchell said blue rope likely came to the North through commercial fishing, but has become an important tool for those who call the Northwest Territories home.

“This originally commercial fishing rope was planted like a giant bean and it has grown to epic proportions with uses that far exceed or surpass the commercial fishing industry,” Mitchell told CBC. the Trailbreaker host Loren McGinnis.

“Just walk down the street and once you notice it, the blue rope is everywhere.”

It’s a tool still used for fishing, as expected, but it’s also used in the field for camping or hunting, he said. He taught his child to tie his shoes with blue rope, and people even used it to repair snowmobiles.

These are the types of stories featured at the Snowking’s Winter Festival for a temporary exhibit Mitchell is curating called “Blurope.”

“What I did in this exhibit is just try to give some examples of how it’s used everywhere,” he said.

“It’s used in the field, it’s used in our homes, and it’s used in the snow castle,” he said. “It’s connective tissue, it’s binding that binds our stories together.”

The Blurope exhibition is on view until March 20. (Loren McGinnis/CBC)

Mitchell said the blue rope, like moose hide or birch bark, reflects the creativity of the artisans behind it.

“To appreciate the blue rope is to appreciate the people who use it,” he said.

Mitchell said the blue rope can be seen all over the territory, even in unexpected places.

“I noticed yesterday on the flag of the Northwest Territories that there was actually like a rippling blue rope across the top of the flag,” he said, adding that many would consider it to be of the Arctic Ocean – but for him, it’s a blue cord.

Anthony Foliot, widely known as Snowking, hailed the exhibit in a video on Facebook. He also made sure to jokingly call out the spelling.

“You have to come and see, it’s called Blurope, it’s a bit short in grammar because it forgot the vowels, but it’s a wonderful thing,” he said.

The Snow King, Anthony Foliot, on the opening day of the Snow Castle, March 1, 2022 (SnowkingXXVII/FreezeFrame)

Looking for more stories

Sarah Swan is the curator of the exhibition, which was organized in partnership with the Yellowknife Artist Run Community Center (YK ARCC).

“It’s such a unique way to bring people together around this common substance that everyone seems to have a relationship with,” she said of the Blurope exhibit.

Swan said this is the first exhibit the YK ARCC has held off-site from the Northwest Territories Mobile Art Gallery.

“We chose to do it in the castle because a lot of the images Mike used were examples of castles,” she said.

“Like how the blue rope has been used so many times in the construction of the castle itself.”

The Blurope exhibition will be presented in the chapel of the snow castle until March 20.

However, Swan said she hopes this will be the first of several screenings of this exhibit across the territory.

“We know there are stories of the blue rope in communities in the Northwest Territories beyond Yellowknife,” she said.

“We would therefore be delighted to take the Blurope exhibit and walk through it either with the mobile gallery or in partnership with community centers and small museums elsewhere in the territory.”

She said her organization was looking for more blue rope stories from residents of the Northwest Territories. These can be sent to the YK ARCC. Facebook and instagram pages.