Replacing February gloom with winter colour

Artworks encased in ice pop up around Kingston to bring art lovers together

An art piece encased in ice is one of many pieces in the exhibition Froid’Art, which hopes to revive the cheer of winter.
An art piece encased in ice is one of many pieces in the exhibition Froid’Art, which hopes to revive the cheer of winter.

When I strayed off Wellington St. to the entrance of Martello Alley, David Dossett’s eyes lit up. 

“Come in!  Come in!” he called. As he offered me snacks, he began pointing at the colourful gallery.

“Did you know this isn’t real brick?” he asked me, pointing at the floor.

“We painted all that with a sponge,” he said.  Looking down at my feet, I noticed that indeed, the brick wasn’t real, but rather painstakingly hand-painted to look as if it were. 

Stepping into Martello Alley, owned by artist David Dossett, is like stepping into another world. Everywhere you look, there’s something someone clearly put a lot of effort into creating.  

Whether it’s the elaborate gallery sign that Dossett dreamt up or the carefully painted doors and windows, Martello Alley is the perfect environment to enjoy art — so much so that the gallery itself has become a piece of art.

The majority of the crowd at the opening reception for the current show, Froid’Art, was composed of the artists and their families. But if age was measured in laughter, it was the youngest crowd I’ve been around for a long time. 

Dossett came up with Froid’Art after he noticed the Kingston phenomena that’s all too familiar to me — the heavy deadening of spirit that rolls into town along with the thick clouds of winter.

To combat those cold feelings of isolation, he set out to create a winter art display that encourages people to get outdoors and enjoy themselves even after the cheerful holiday displays have been taken down.

After buying large chunks of ice from a company called Ice Culture, Dossett and other artists created pieces of art and encased them in ice, scattering them throughout the city. 

“They say I can sell ice to Canadians in winter,” Dossett said jokingly. 

On a surprisingly warm and sunny late January day, Martello Alley was lively and bright. Music floated out from the gallery as we spent the evening dancing and singing along to the funky tunes of Deidrey Francois and Alex Severinets.

Laura Moreland, a Queen’s alum, created the ice sculpture “99 Red Balloons”. The piece, which features 99 red balloons floating up over Market Square while encased in ice, is now on display at The Mansion.

“[Martello Alley is] a collective of people, contemporary, important, fantastic,” Moreland said.

“Dave really has a gift. He invites people in.  It’s a snowball effect.  Look at him now, ‘Come play with us!’ he says.  He claims it’s his kids he paints playing in the snow, but really, it’s him.” 

“If you want to be part of something,” she added, “invite yourself!”

As I left, three-and-half hours later, with my pockets full of business cards, ginger cookies and a map of all the frozen pieces all over Kingston, I was as warm and cheerful as on any given summer’s day.

I highly recommend that you stop by Martello Alley yourself to get a map and check out some of the pieces around the city. Most are located at stores and restaurants on Princess St., including The Toucan and Chez Piggy. 

“Everyone left here with a smile,” Moreland said — and it’s true.

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