We sat down with GAGL Artist, Nicole Clouston to discuss what it means to make community-engaged, collaborative artwork. Nicole’s living piece, Lake Ontario Portrait, is now installed at the Hamilton Public Library’s Central Branch — check it out today!


Check out the live interview here:


GAGL: Who is Nicole Clouston? Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m an active artist. I really enjoy working specifically with mud, microbes and definitely with people too, discussing ideas surrounding our ecosystem, and our connectivity. I’m also a student at York University doing my PhD in Visual Art, and so I have this whole aspect of research that goes alongside the visual artwork that I do. I’m really interested in this very different way of disseminating knowledge and talking to people through experiences rather than just through text or language even.


GAGL: Let’s start by talking about your motivation to create community-engaged, collaborative artwork.


What motivates me to create community-engaged artwork really is the community. So if I’m asking members of the community to bring me a bag of mud and make a sculpture together—I think our dialogue enters into this really different space where there’s play, a conversation about contemporary art, and mud, microbes and other ecology. Community-engaged artwork for me has a lot to do with access to a different way of talking about making art and our environment.


Mud Art Making at SuperCrawl


Mud Macro


GAGL: What was your favourite GAGL moment?

My favourite memory creating Lake Ontario Portrait was really getting to play with mud with a bunch of people from the community of Hamilton.


Mud Art Making at SuperCrawl


GAGL: What makes a Great Lakes Community?

I think what motivates people to become a Great Lakes Community is really finding a meaningful connection to their lake—something as simple as visiting a beautiful spot on the lake and experiencing it.



GAGL: If there were not any constraints, what would be your dream project?

My dream project is to get people from all over the world to send me mud samples from lakes that are meaningful to them, and create a portrait of all of the lakes in the world.


Mud Macro