Lakehead University professor emeritus inducted into Royal Canadian Academy of Arts

Photo of Prof. Mark Nisenholt

During his acceptance speech over Zoom, Prof. Mark Nisenholt spoke about
his life in the arts.

December 21, 2022 – Thunder Bay, Ont.

Prof. Mark Nisenholt was recently inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.

On Saturday, Nov. 26, the popular Thunder Bay artist and professor emeritus from Lakehead University attended an RCAA ceremony through Zoom that celebrated his work in computer illustration.

“I feel very honoured to be recognized by the RCAA and very grateful as well,” Prof. Nisenholt said.

If you’ve walked around Thunder Bay’s marina, you’ve no doubt seen his work.

He created Paleogirls, the Swimmers, and Ulysses – amazing public art installations along Pier 2 depicting giant figures that explore our relationship to water and nature.

In addition to creating his own art, as a Lakehead University professor from 1979 until 2015 he taught roughly 600 students and provided advice to several hundreds more as the chair of the visual arts department.

“I am very excited and proud to learn of the successes of my students,” he said.

“That is what teaching is all about. But I am also proud of my students who continue at their artwork whether or not they achieve worldly success, because the inner satisfaction in making art is the true reward.”

As the first full-time professor of visual arts at Lakehead University, Prof. Nisenholt described his life in the arts with three words - imagining, creating, and sharing.

Being an artist has allowed him the freedom to use his imagination in the most refined way that he knows.

“My work is always a kind of improvised reaction to what is happening to me or to the world around me,” he said.

“I use any tools that will help me advance or cultivate my creative impulse. The digital tools – computers, cameras, and graphic software – let me create pictures that I could not accomplish otherwise.

“Generally my imagery is based on something real, like a photo, but it often strays quite far from its origins.”

Prof. Nisenholt is usually most proud of his latest work, but he is also very proud of his public art – such as his work at the marina and the various artworks on display at Lakehead University – because he knows many people will experience it.

He also feels as if the work is never fully completed.

“As an artist I am always mentally trying to improve on them,” he said.

His most recent work is a series of pictures featuring crows, ravens and human/raven hybrid creatures. You can see it here and here.

Prof. Nisenholt taught at Mount Allison University as a sabbatical replacement in 1978 and 1985.

“For an artist, there is no better position to be in than to be able to work in a university setting accompanied by sympathetic and creative colleagues – to engage on a daily basis with the creative minds of students and to be allowed to pursue your own creative work as well,” he said.

“My great thanks to Lakehead and Mount Allison for the privilege.”



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Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university with approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and over 2,000 faculty and staff at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead has nine faculties, including Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Graduate Studies, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Law, Natural Resources Management, Science & Environmental Studies, and Social Sciences & Humanities. Lakehead University’s achievements have been recognized nationally and internationally, including being ranked in the top half of Times Higher Education's 2023 World Universities Rankings for the fourth consecutive year, and the number one university in the world with fewer than 10,000 students in THE’s 2022 Impact Rankings (which assesses institutions against the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals). Visit