A circle made of stone clay with stick burning within the border.

rare Charitable Research Reserve, 681 Blair Rd, Cambridge. Produced by CAFKA. Photo by Alex Ortega
For CAFKA.18 Cambridge artist Don Russell built Stone, Clay, Fire: Making a Circle in Springbank Community Gardens at the rare Charitable Research Reserve in Cambridge, Ontario. He began by digging a circular trench approximately 30 cm deep by 20 cm wide. The trench was filled with clay and was lined with stones on either side. On top of the clay the artist established a fire that burned continuously from the morning of June 21 through June 28. During the month of June people were invited to come and experience the building of the circle and help tend the fire.
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Stone Clay and Fire: Making a Circle was conceived by the artist to act as a point of connection between Indigenous and settler populations. The artist invited the community to spend time on the land by creating a meeting place for contemplation and sharing, and to witness the artistic process. The form of the artwork is inspired by historical aboriginal trails and their influence on the physical networks of today. It is a symbol of the aboriginal presence and its lasting wisdom. The colour red was chosen as a connection to the earth though our mothers. The fire brings us together in a celebratory way.
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The finding and reclaiming of historical Indigenous sites and objects is a way forward in recognizing the link between First Nations and the history of this land and its use. Don Russell wants to connect to the past by creating something today in the same spirit as those forgotten sites and objects. The rare Charitable Research Reserve currently occupies the land at the confluence of the Speed and Grand River, which has always been an historical area for First Nation Peoples and serves as a fitting area for the project.

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On Wednesday, June 20th, 2018 traditional knowledge holder and elder Peter Schuler from the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation spoke to a gathering of 65 people around Stone, Clay, Fire.

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Stone Clay and Fire: Making a Circle is a continuation of Don Russell’s interest in land art projects reflecting regional histories. His most recent land art project, Circle Mound (2016), at the Art Gallery of Guelph, serves as a gathering place for all community members as well as a reminder of Guelph's history of indigenous peoples within the region. Stone Clay and Fire: Making a Circle was born out of the idea that a gathering place will foster community acknowledgement of Indigenous spaces within the urban setting.


About the artist


Don Russell grew up in the bayside community of Stephenville, Newfoundland, he identifies as Mi’kmaq and Acadian French. Russell has practiced painting and sculpture for over twenty years. He is a graduate of the University of Guelph’s School of Fine Art (1995) and of the Dundas Valley School of Art’s postgraduate program (2002). Russell lives and works in Cambridge, Ontario and maintains a studio in downtown Guelph.

Stone Clay Fire is made possible with the support of the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund and rare Charitable Research Reserve.

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