"Lake Joe: Together"

A collaborative art mural created for the CNIB Lake Joseph Centre.

The following artist statement will be written in both large print and braille under the mural when it is installed on-site at CNIB Lake Joe:

Reach out to touch the mural. What do you feel? What textures do you notice?

This mural is made of 72 unique squares. A member of the Lake Joe community made each one out of clay. Some are abstract, others are patterns, while some are even messages. Some members drew into the clay, and others  sculpted on top of it. Everyone made something different, but we’ve brought them together to create this larger, collaborative work of art. The mural’s title “Lake Joe Together”  is written with braille tiles that fit into the mural.

In 2019, a kiln was donated to Lake Joe, which kickstarted the pottery program at the camp. This is the first - hopefully of many - projects that the community will create. Each week, blind and partially sighted guests and their families could each make a tile, and we slowly collected enough to make the mural that lives here, at Lake Joe.

Image description:

A mosaic mural made up of squares, each is different. They are made of clay and are decorated with various tactile artworks that we encourage everyone to touch! Glazed ceramics are durable. The tiles are different colours: yellow, blue and white, in a repeating pattern beginning with a yellow sun on the top left.

CNIB Lake Joe Centre

CNIB Lake Joe is an accessible camp in Muskoka, Ontario dedicated to welcoming guests of all ages. Canadians who are blind or partially sighted and their families are welcome to explore the camp, and can try a range of activities on the shores of Lake Joseph. Sports, music, art and nature are all adapted to include all guests.


In 2021, I was the inaugural Arts Specialist at CNIB Lake Joe. There, I began developing the new ceramics program from the ground up. We had a kiln, some pottery wheels, some clay, and no other supplies. Working closely with the Program Manager, I acquired pottery supplies and safety equipment to ensure the best experience for all ceramics participants.

The following year, my goal was to create a large-scale project that would connect each week of camp and include all guests, from kids to teens to adults to seniors. My considerations when designing this collaborative art mural project were:

1. The project needed to be accessible to guests who are blind, partially sighted and those who had a range of abilities.

2. The focus should be on the process, not the product. I prioritized open-ended projects and self-expression.

3. The final project needed to be tactile and durable, so that it could be experienced via touch without damaging the art.

Tile Making

During staff training, I introduced the entire staff to ceramics, focusing on safety, inclusion and descriptive language in the arts context. Art facilitators help create pieces by encouraging and working with artists, not creating for them. This emphasizes the innate creativity within each individual and the dignity to create independently.

One of the adaptive tools we used was cardboard templates for the tiles, measuring 2 inches by 2 inches, acting as a guide to trimming their own tiles without needing to use a ruler. Ceramics also is inherently accessible as a completely tactile medium, which made it an ideal medium for Lake Joe guests.

Throughout the summer, campers could make these clay tiles. Each tile was created using a unique combination of additive and subtractive sculpture; some artists decided to carve away at their tile to create impressions using various tools, while others decided to create miniature sculptures on top. Many immediately felt inspired to leave their mark, whether it was drawing a sun in the clay or writing their initials, but others were more reticent. For those artists, the prompt “what does Lake Joe mean to you?” encouraged their creativity. Through this question, we found that participants created motifs of the water, canoes and joy.

Creating the Mosaic

In the fall season, in collaboration with Writing With Feeling, a Braille literacy initiative, for young writers we added the title to this work: “Lake Joe: Together.” The participants used 3D-printed stamps to create the impression of Braille characters, spelling out the title one letter at a time across the mosaic mural. 

The title is on the bottom two rows of the mural, with the Lake Joe logo of a sailboat on a wave acting as a space between the words "Lake" and "Joe." The other tile artworks surround the title.

We then collected each work, fired them in the kiln, and stored them until it was time to collect them into the mosaic mural. My colleagues and I glazed each tile so that they would be colourful, and shiny and smooth like glass.We used yellow to represent the CNIB brand colour, white, and a bright blue to represent Lake Joseph. We arranged them in a pattern of colours, beginning with yellow, then white, then blue and so on.

Finally, the mural will be hung up on a wall in a communal space, with an artist statement in large-print text and in braille for guests to experience, touch and hopefully find their own work in years to come.

Putting the mural together.

My tile: Lake Joe logo.

Showing off the texture.

About the artist:

Amelia Rankine is an artist and illustrator who specializes in art education for youth. She created the programming for this project, operated the kiln, collected the tiles, glazed many of them with colour and put the mosaic together. She also sculpted the Lake Joe sailboat logo that is between the words “Lake” and “Joe” on the mural. While ceramics aren’t her specialty, she enjoys spending time working at the pottery wheel. She was a member of the Lake Joe staff during the 2021 and 2022 seasons, working as the Art Specialist and then the Head of Leadership & Special Programs.

Special thanks to all of the amazing artists who made tiles this summer, each is a work of art and together you made a masterpiece. Thank you to Cerenna Racey and Emilee Schevers for spending days glazing tiles. Finally, a huge thank you to all of the program facilitators who made pottery fun for our guests.

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