Wire sculpture artist Charmaine Lurch adds details onto a wired bee frame. Lurch has been preparing the sculptures to offer community workshops over the summer months in Haliburton. /submitted

Bees in the trees

By Emily Stonehouse
We’ve all heard the phrase “see the forest for the trees,” but what about seeing the forest for the bees?
That’s what the Haliburton Sculpture Forest is aiming to do for their newest collaboration with artist in residence Charmaine Lurch.
“We’ve had dancers before as artists in residence,” said Jim Blake, the curator of the Sculpture Forest, “but we have never had a visual artist. And there are many layers to Charmaine as an artist.”
Lurch is a multidisciplinary artist with a Masters in environmental science, whose work focuses on the intricacies of relationships between humans and the natural world. She has exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, and the National Gallery of Jamaica to name a few. She has also showcased installations at Nuit Blanche in Toronto and the University of British Columbia’s Liu Institute.
In her artist statement for the upcoming installation, Lurch noted that approximately 75 per cent of North American plant species require an insect to pollinate. Most of the time, bees are up to the task. “Wild bees are hard to see unless they’ve landed on something or they’re dead,” she said, “I wanted for them to be seen and their vital role in our ecosystem recognized.”
But unlike many art installations, Charmaine wanted the community to “bee” as involved as possible. That is why she is hosting two wild bee making workshops over the summer to kick off her installation.
Over the winter months, Lurch has been creating the wired bodies of the wild bees, and for two weeks in the summer, she is inviting anyone to join her in putting together the arms, the legs, and the wings of these fantastical wild bees. “I love the idea of having installations for this very reason,” said Blake. “It really gets people involved.” Blake shared that people are welcome to drop by for an hour, a day, or even the whole week. The program is free of charge, and all bees that are created will be landing in the Sculpture Forest for visitors to see.
The Sculpture Forest saw over 40,000 visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, visitation has wavered slightly, but it is still the number one destination for visitors in Haliburton County, based on County Tourism information.
With that in mind, Blake is cognizant of the environmental impact these visitors could have on the trails and the forest as a whole. “There are two parts of a sculpture forest,” he said. “One is obviously the sculptures, but the other is the forest. We are stewards of the forest, and we really need to pay attention to that.”
Artist Charmaine Lurch will be holding an artist talk on June 28 at 4:45 p.m. in the Great Hall at the Haliburton School of Art + Design. All are welcome, and there is no charge to attend. To join the wire sculpture drop-in sessions over the summer, visit www.haliburton