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Artistic dreams for Mackenzie Rest Inn
First project for new owner is an art gallery as inn changes hands

April Hudson
Northern News Services
Thursday, November 3, 2016

When Lynn Canney first saw a pencil drawing by James Houston hanging on the wall at the Mackenzie Rest Inn, she remembers a feeling of disbelief.

NNSL photo/graphic

Lynn Canney and her husband Mike are the new owners of the Mackenzie Rest Inn in Fort Simpson. - photo courtesy of Lynn Canney

"I was like, 'I can't believe I'm seeing that here. What a beautiful find,' " she said, who along with her husband Mike is the new owner of the inn.

The couple's purchase of the inn was just finalized in October, although they have both helped to manage the inn since June 2015.

The inn is seated near the bank of the Mackenzie River in Fort Simpson, with a deck and large living room window looking out onto the water.

Canney had her eye on the inn long before she and Mike purchased it. After moving to Fort Simpson in 1999, she found herself struck by how much the building looked like an art gallery she had worked at in Halifax.

Coincidentally, that art gallery had been owned by James Houston's wife, Alma, and son John.

"(The inn) reminds me of that so much," Canney said.

"I just think this is the perfect place to introduce people from away to the Northwest Territories. The more I thought about that, the more I thought about the Houston North Gallery."

Canney's time at the Houston North Gallery, coupled with a year she spent in Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut, cemented her love of art.

Now, she hopes to bring some of that passion to the Mackenzie Rest Inn by adding an artistic flair to the six-bedroom bed and breakfast.

"I have in mind a gallery I'd like to develop," she said.

"We've obviously conquered stage one - we've bought the bed and breakfast. Stage two for me is purchasing enough inventory to be able to kit this place up with art for sale. When I'm ready, I'll have a lot of art in here for sale."

She has already started building that inventory. Art pieces from Behchoko's James Wedzin, Yellowknife's Terry Pamplin and Hay River photographer Adam Hill are just some of the work currently hanging on the walls.

The gallery will eventually exist online as well as Canney aims to tap into a global art market.

"We'll see down the road where things go and what happens from there," she said.

Over the years she has lived in Fort Simpson, Canney has been involved with the Open Sky Creative Society as well as the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre.

But she had always admired what the Mackenzie Rest Inn became under its former owners, Reg Bellefontaine and Lois Martin.

"I kind of have a rule about jealousy: if I find myself jealous about something, I'll take a while to sit back and think about what that is, and make sure I respect that my jealousy is telling me there's something out there I really appreciate," she said.

"I never imagined (Bellefontaine) would approach us (to buy it), but he did one day. It took us a few months to make a decision about whether we would want to or not, but boy, within those few months I just thought about all the really cool people you get to meet."

That aspect of the job has its own allure for her and Mike. Meeting travellers from all over the world and showcasing some of the scenery in Fort Simpson has kept them busy over the past year.

The couple has no current plans to add on to the building, aside from re-painting the walls and replacing some of the furniture.

"We want to get ourselves really well settled in. That's enough for a couple of years," Canney said.

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