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From the peaks of Banff to the historically saturated Fort of Louisbourg, Canadian parks and historical sites easily stoke inspiration.
In them, Canadian art heavyweights Emily Carr and the Group of Seven sought to capture the Canadian wilderness in the early 1900s. Now, the National Parks Project is aiming to put a modern-day twist on creativity in the wild by inviting musicians and filmmakers to capture the spirit of parks across the country.
Starting this Saturday on the Discovery Channel, cameras follow 52 Canadian artists as they explore 13 national parks with a mission to create music and film that reflect the landscape and their experience.
In the pilot episode singer/songwriters Kathleen Edwards, Matt Mays, Sam Roberts and filmmaker Hubert Davis encounter polar bears in Wapusk National Park in Manitoba.
“The first thing I thought was this is remote… really remote,” says Shad, a hip-hop artist born in Kenya and raised in London, Ont., who visited Nahanni National Park in the Northwest Terrtories.
“I’m kind of a city kid, so how untouched it is was really amazing to me,” said the self-confessed urbanite of his first experience in the Arctic.
Shad says that the National Parks Project gave him an experience that was completely outside his comfort zone. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I’m not an adventurer by any means so there’s no way I’d be there otherwise.”
Geoff Morrison is co-creator, producer and director on the project and says that like Shad, many Canadians haven’t experienced the parks. “We want to bring the parks to people who might not get there otherwise. We wanted to capture those hard to access places.”
Much like the conservation efforts of the Group of Seven in Ontario’s Killarney Provincial Park, Morrison believes that there is message in the music. “There is a conservation message. It’s not overt but it runs as a subtle undercurrent in the episodes.”
Shad agrees that his experience in Nahanni has had a profound effect on his views on protecting these spaces. “I hope a broader part of the Canadian population realizes some of the things we have with these national parks and some of the things we can take advantage of and see and also take care of.”