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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Ryley Wilcox
Ryley Wilcox
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I found my passion for journalism during my sophomore year of college, writing articles here and there for the North Wind. Since joining the staff this past semester as the news writer, I have been able...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

Rabbit Island Residency connects nature, art

Imagine a 91 acre forested land mass on the vast waters of Lake Superior, bald eagles soaring, great blue herons nesting in trees, lake trout and salmon thriving in the surrounding waters.


Located just three miles east of the Keweenaw Peninsula, Rabbit Island is composed of a native ecosystem standing upon solid bedrock and has never been developed or subdivided.

Each year several artists are brought together to travel to, live and work amongst the nature and wildlife of Rabbit Island and the clear water of Lake Superior that surrounds it.

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These artists live on the island for a short time during the summer and then the work they create is displayed at NMU.

The annual Rabbit Island Residency Exhibit will be on display at the DeVos Art Museum until Sunday, Sept. 28.

The artists and writers who stayed on the island this year and the two co-founders of this program, Rob Gorski and Andrew Ranville, will be visiting NMU Sunday, Sept. 28 for a panel discussion and a closing reception of the show.

The discussion will take place at 3 p.m. in the Great Lakes Rooms in the University Center and the closing reception will be held at 5 p.m. in the museum.

“This is the first year we had an official call for applications,” Director and Curator of the DeVos Art Museum Melissa Matuscak said. “There were a lot of artists who applied from all over the world and there was a panel who had to decide which artists were invited to come to the island.”

The six individuals selected to live on the island this year include photographer Nich Hance McElroy, writer Elvia Wilk and a collaborative group known as Waboozaki, which incorporates artists Dylan Miner, Julie Nagman, Nicholas Brown and Suzanne Morrissette.

The artists were given a stipend to cover expenses.

“This is also the first year we were able to offer supported residencies, thanks to a grant from the Michigan Council for the Arts & Cultural Affairs,” Matuscak said. “Each resident received support to cover expenses related to the residency and the exhibition.”

Matuscak said the diversity of the artists gave a variety of perspectives to the work.

“They each bring their own perspective to the residency and each have their own unique way of expressing their ideas,” Matuscak said. “They are from all over the world — Vancouver, Berlin, Toronto, Iowa City and East Lansing.”

Matusak met the artists and said they are all incredibly creative, intelligent and have a very strong aesthetic.

“I really feel like the work in the exhibition can speak to a lot of students in many different ways,” Matuscak said.

Sophomore ecology major Erika Meints viewed the exhibit last year.

“The nature themes were very prevalent,” Meints said. “I specifically remember the pieces being very interpretive. They were like something you would dream about, ethereal maybe. I think being secluded on an island would force you to really concentrate and be whole in your work.”

This year’s display of art, photography and writing isn’t simply a documented recollection of the artists’ time spent on the island. This year’s exhibition touches on many different areas.

Matuscak said work made about the Indigenous history of the area discusses issues of colonization, economics, mining and the cultural history of the area, such as the island’s original name, Ni-aazhawa’am-minis.

In his essay about his time spent on the island, artist Dylan Miner of the collaborative group Waboozaki said, “The beauty of being artists, of course, is located in the speculative and provisional ways that we may both investigate the past and imagine the future.”

His work – as well as the work of many of the other artists’ – deals a lot with the history and atmosphere of the island itself.

“Before I began working from and about Ni-aazhawa’am-minis (Rabbit Island), I needed to listen to the island and her spirit… I wanted to understand the land, knowing that my relationship with her was only temporary,” Miner said in his essay.    

This year’s display will include maps of the Upper Peninsula, video footage from around the island, photographs and writings depicting themes such as isolation as well as environmental subjects and pieces of nature from the island itself.

“Not many people can actually visit the island, but it’s a part of our local history and culture – you can even see the island from some parts of the Keweenaw,” Matuscak said. “This exhibition is a way for people in the area to experience the island through the eyes of the artists. With the programs we are doing, it’s also a way for the community to actually meet the artists who visit the island.”

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