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

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Artist Mike Mitchell said blue rope likely came to the North through commercial fishing, but it has grown to be an important tool to those who call the NWT home.

“This originally commercial fishing rope has been planted like a giant beanstalk and it’s grown to epic proportions with uses that far outweigh or outstrip the commercial fishing industry,” Mitchell told CBC’s the Trailbreaker host Loren McGinnis.

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

It’s a tool still used for fishing, as intended, but it’s also used on the land for camping or hunting, he said. He taught his child to tie their shoes using blue rope, and people have even used it to fix snowmobiles.

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

“What I’ve done in this exhibit is just try and give some examples of how it’s used all over the place,” he said.

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

The Blurope exhibit is on display until March 20. (Loren McGinnis/CBC)

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

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

Mitchell said blue rope can be seen all around the territory, even places you wouldn’t expect.

“I was noticing on the NWT flag yesterday, there’s actually like an undulating blue rope across the top of the flag,” he said, adding many would consider it to be the Arctic Ocean — but to him it’s blue rope.

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

“You got to come check it out, it’s called Blurope, it’s a little bit short on grammar because he forgot the vowels, but it’s a wonderful thing,” he said.

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

Looking for more stories

Sarah Swan is the curator for the exhibit, which was run in partnership with the Yellowknife Artist Run Community Center (YK ARCC).

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

Swan said this was the first exhibit the YK ARCC has run off-site from the mobile Art Gallery of the NWT

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

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

The Blurope exhibit will be on display in the chapel of the snow castle until March 20.

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

“We know that there’s blue rope stories out there in the communities of the Northwest Territories beyond just Yellowknife,” she said.

“So we would love to take the Blurope exhibit and travel it either with the mobile gallery or in partnerships with community centers and small museums elsewhere in the territory.”

She said her organization is looking for more blue rope stories from residents across the NWT Those can be sent to the YK ARCC Facebook and Instagram pages.

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