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The Forest – Common Ground®

Sharing a common vision in a divided world.

Common ground – it sustains and nurtures us. A common vision of who we are and where we want to go – not necessarily in the same way, because we are different, but with the same goals – to take care of our family, be a good neighbor, and provide for those in need.


Essential to that common ground is the landscape, both physical and emotional, that lives and evolves around us.

A prominent feature of that landscape is the forest – from the vast boreal, tropical and other forests that stretch across our global landscape, to the many urban forests found within and around our cities, towns and villages.

More than 60 percent of Alberta is forested. Forests occupy nearly 350 million hectares across Canada. In total, forests cover 31 percent of the world’s land surface - just over 4 billion hectares. 


Forests and trees are vital to the wellbeing of people and the planet.

Since long before Confederation, forests have played a crucial role in the lives of this land’s inhabitants: First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, explorers, settlers, residents of the young Dominion of Canada and now all Canadians. Indeed, forests are part of our national identity.


Forests filter water, protect soil, regulate climate, cycle and store nutrients and provide habitat for wildlife. They are a source of food, medicine and fuel for billions of people. And they inspire our imagination through their quiet majesty and intricate beauty – speaking a universal language understood by all who experience them.

It is in this spirit The Forest – Common Ground ® was conceived. The exhibit creates an engaging visual experience, supported by Alberta First Nations, Métis and Inuit learnings and teachings (see further detail under "The Concept" below), from what we take for granted by exposing the uncommon and often hidden beauty of the forest. It captures the extraordinary in the ordinary and what we feel and special to each of us. Because while what we see is common, we experience it differently. And that is what makes us a community.


Now more than ever, we need to celebrate common ground.


In a recent BBC global survey conducted by IPSOS in 2018, three-quarters of respondents said their country’s society is divided – and most think it’s more divided now than it was a decade ago. Differences in political views were seen as the greatest cause of tension, followed by differences between rich and poor. Yet despite these divisions, the majority agreed people across the world have more things in common than things that make them different.


The Gallup 2019 Global Emotions Report found another disconcerting trend.  Based on interviews with 150,000+ adults in more than 140 countries in 2018, people were more worried, sadder and angrier than ever before.

Consistent with this are the findings of 2019 and 2020 Angus Reid polls in Canada, which indicate three in five Canadians are concerned about the future of the next generation.  Climate change remains our No. 1 issue – yet we don’t agree on the best way to fight it.  And there's an increasing mood of inter-regional dissatisfaction, alienation and fragmentation.


So…what to do?

The Forest – Common Ground ® responds to these concerns.  It showcases an important aspect of our natural landscape and celebrates the universal appeal of the forest as both sanctuary and sustainer – supporting a diverse, strong and accepting community of common understanding.

“Consider all the different kinds of trees there are in the forest.  But they don't fight with each other.  They get along together just fine; they live in harmony.  Why can't we? "


Leader, Land Defender, Learned Man, Mediator, Peace Ambassador


Creating an immersive experience.

Using the intricate and striking photographic images from Alberta’s forests created by Jon Havelock as the prototype, we are building two separate and diverse national and international forests, respectively including species from all parts of Canada and different corners of the globe, each coexisting as a single unified forest. 


The Canadian forest will have more than 200 trees presented in two complementary, though distinct "styles", with at least five from each of the ten provinces and 3 territories.   The International forest will have at least 193 trees, being one from each country recognized as such by the United Nations, and such other territories and de jure sovereign states (e.g. Greenland, Palestine, etc.) as the initiative organizers may determine.  There is no limit on the number of trees which may be selected for display as single images.  


The intent of each exhibit is to create an immersive experience that draws people into the majesty and wonder of the forest – a virtual form of “forest bathing” – inviting viewers to lose themselves in a setting of rich and stimulating imagery, to explore and see the unseen.

A call for submissions was first issued to photographers from across Canada in the spring of 2020 (outreach is a continuous process) to submit images to create the final Canadian forest exhibit (due to Covid challenges, closing date extended from December 31, 2020 to December 31, 2021 - the submission call date for the International forest has not yet been determined). Contributing photographers will follow precise guidelines to ensure the quality and consistency of images. Submitted work will be curated and the selected images will be integrated into the final art installation.  Selected artists will share in the success of the exhibits.


The schedule for the Canadian forest exhibition is not yet available.  The intention is to be ready to launch in Edmonton in the summer of 2024/25 (extended from 2022 due to Covid challenges, design and construction requirements, image processing and numerous other project initiatives) at the Convention Centre (approx. 15-day exhibition).  Other Canadian exhibition sites will then follow.


Please note videos on this website refer to a submission closing date of December 31, 2020 and a tentative exhibition date of the summer of 2022.  As noted above, these have been extended to December 31, 2021 and 2024/25 respectively.  

First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Culture and Themes 


Approaches to incorporating a significant First Nations, Métis, and Inuit cultural, cross-Canada presence in the installation are currently being explored.  


To achieve such goal, The Forest – Common Ground ® will be seeking advice from and the involvement of those communities through all stages of installation development and exhibition (and, of course, sharing information about the project).  This will ensure First Nations, Métis, and Inuit cultures are reflected in an accurate, traditionally consistent, and respectful manner.  Initial approaches to be considered include:


  • Extensive discussion of colonialism and the lasting impacts on the Indigenous community thereof 

  • Themes conveying the importance of the forest and environment generally within the context of First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities

  • Highlighting the key differences between First Nations, Métis and Inuit cultures and "Western" culture, including teachings and learnings that can be applied to our current situation in Canada to assist with moving towards a more inclusive and cooperative society 

  • Community members photographing trunks (or ground cover and lichens for Nunavut) in their local area with Jon Havelock.  Jon would provide the gear and guidance, much like he did for the cross-Canada National Meetup tour from early July through to late October 2021

  • Image naming protocols – every final image in the installation will named by the photographer who submitted the original photos (or by TFCG if the photographer declines to do so).  The name will be represented in three languages: English, French and the appropriate First Nations, Métis, or Inuit language

  • Participation by First Nations, Métis and Inuit elders and other community members in making presentations to installation visitors

  • A component in the installation honouring the victims and/or survivors of family members of Residential Schools, the 60's/80's Scoop and MMIWG

  • Leveraging the installation to raise awareness of and support for the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations


A key objective of this initiative is to educate Canadians generally about, while celebrating the importance of, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples in Canada.  Three highly regarded Alberta residents, Mr. Dennis Whitford (Métis/Cree Elder), Mr. Lewis Cardinal (Woodland Cree from the Sucker Creek Cree First Nation), and Ms. Lorna Dancey (Métis/Cree and previously the Truth and Reconciliation Coordinator for the MNA) have kindly offered to assist with this aspect of the project.

Jonathan Havelock Fine Art Photography and Jonathan Havelock each respectfully acknowledge the gallery is situated on Treaty 6 Territory, traditional lands of First Nations and Métis people.  We make this acknowledgment to further reconciliation and offer our gratitude to those whose cultural contributions and traditions continue to enrich our community.

Inclusivity and Celebrating Who We Are 

The Forest – Common Ground ® is all about celebrating diversity and what brings us together.  Consequently, the installation will reflect what makes us strong – people from all walks of life – regardless of their gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or physical or intellectual disabilities – coming together for each other, and for their community.


But while we continue that coming together, we need to be mindful of how we got here.  Both the good and the bad, so we’re celebrating what we should be celebrating.   



Celebrating diversity and common purpose.

The logo for The Forest – Common Ground ®, designed by Juliana Laface with input from our volunteer team, incorporates a variety of trees – some having the same shape, some being tall and others short, but each being different. The individual trees are connected by “common ground” with the box (or ground) containing the name.  All of this is tied together with the use of a skin tone color palette representing all races and ethnicities – resulting in a forest that celebrates our differences while recognizing our interdependencies.



Partnering to make our planet better.

Forests have been, and will continue to be, an integral part of the environmental, economic and cultural life in Canada and the world.  They provide sustainable jobs and products through appropriate harvesting and reforestation practices.  They offer spiritual, cultural and social benefits.  And they are a critical component in moderating climate change.


Forests improve air and water quality by acting as natural cleansers and maintain the global environmental balance by absorbing and storing carbon.  Quite simply, having more trees in the world benefits us all – potentially reducing the severity of climactic events, improving global health and supporting the preservation and expansion of our plant and wildlife biodiversity.  


The Forest – Common Ground ® is committed to the sustainment and re-establishment of forests in Canada and throughout the world for the current and future generations.  That is why we are donating our net Canadian exhibition and retail proceeds to various charitable organizations dedicated to reforestation, environmental preservation and climate change initiatives in Canada.        


Borrowing from “God’s roll of film”.

Alberta photographer Jon Havelock developed the concept for The Forest – Common Ground ® out of his love for the outdoors and his belief in the power of nature as a healing and unifying force. Jon’s images focus on intimate close-ups of our natural world – borrowing from “God’s roll of film”. His goal is to highlight the extraordinary that is inherent in the ordinary – to heighten our appreciation and awareness of our environment and the communities and peoples that are sustained by it.


Supporting Jon is a team of respected and talented volunteers.  They are former bankers, government employees, marketers, media, administrators and publicists – some are retired, while others are still working.   Their common trait?  Having a strong commitment to The Forest – Common Ground ® and to each other.

Together, the team is inspired by the power of nature and the universal symbolism of the tree as a sustainer of life. Their collective goal is to build a virtual Canadian and global forest, soliciting and curating images from like-minded photographers across Canada and around the world to celebrate the common ground of beauty and wonderment inspired by nature.

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