How Regional Development is Giving New Life to the Bonavista Peninsula

Heather profiles 4-5 spots in the Bonavista area.

Out of the cold July morning and into the warmth of a roaring woodstove I met with Ruth, Creative Director of Bonavista Creative and Director of the not for profit Art Bonavista. When I had requested an interview, she instead arranged a tour of the people and places I needed to see.

Duntara – Catherine Beaudette

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For all the development in the area, Duntara on the Bonavista Bay side of the peninsula is still a quiet cove. Catherine Beaudette is an Associate Professor at OCAD, and the curator and founder of 2 Rooms Contemporary Arts Projects, which includes the gallery and museum space in an old saltbox built in 1881, and artist residencies that involve the artists directly into the community.

“A place like this doesn’t leave a big footprint,” said Catherine. “It’s all about the indigenous culture. It celebrates. It doesn’t detract or negate. And people want to see that.”

Keels – John Hofstetter and Karen Fletcher

Photos by Heather Nolan
Photos by Heather Nolan

We parked at the end of the road in Keels, and battled through the wind and rain as we climbed down over a cliff, crossed a rocky spit of land, and out onto a point where an unassuming structure perched. Karen flung open the door and swept us in out of the storm and hung our coats to dry. John put hot coffee on.

John and Karen are sculpture artists from Ontario who established their studio and summer residence in Keels in 1977, after visiting a workmate of John’s and falling in love with the place.

John pulled out an old binder, and showed me a flier for Northern Lights Studios, an artist retreat that would have taken place in the summer of 1990 in one of the old houses behind us on the cliff.

“There just wasn’t enough interest,” said John. “People didn’t think of this place like that back then.” The retreat, with crafts workshops, artist talks and local cultural and ecotourism activities, reads much like a pamphlet you would find in a current tourism brochure.

John and Karen’s exhibition Back to Back Again opens at Two Whales in Port Rexton in August.

Bonavista – Boreal Diner & Broken Books II

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We wove around the coast, with the wild waves turning violent shades of brown and decided to warm up at The Boreal Diner in Bonavista, a newly opened boutique restaurant, café, and bookstore on Church Street. The contemporary urban décor contrasting the heritage restoration of the building, the George Templeman House built in 1872, is a comparison that can be cast upon the development of the peninsula as a whole.

Over our noodle bowls, Ruth outlined some of the work she and other not for profit workers are doing to make the Bonavista Art walk and the Bonavista Biennale happen. This is the second year of the Art Walk, a series of exhibitions and pop up shops that will line Church Street, the historic center of the town, from August 4 to September 4.

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The Bonavista Biennale is a project that will take place in August through September 2017, and will be an exhibition presented though outdoor and indoor locations throughout the entire peninsula to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary. With the aid of a festival map, audience members will move throughout the region to engage with the different media and site specific installations.

Catalina – Mike Flaherty

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As evening drew in, we made a last stop to visit Mike Flaherty at his home studio Wild Cove Ceramics.

“It’s a bit of a frontier,” said Mike. “People can participate here in a way that they can’t in a more established community.”

Social media has made the move to rural music easier for him. He sells pieces online, wholesale to businesses in the province, and can direct tourists to his studio from online.

“You can be a part of the art world outside of a major centre now,” he said. “That has a huge impact.”

His business also benefits from the sense of community that encases the peninsula. Other artists and cultural workers support and promote each other by spreading the word to tourists. As the Bonavista Creative slogan states, “A rising tide lifts all boats,” so the Rising Tide of the region’s development results in the prosperity of the entire region.

While we ran out of daylight hours to continue with more of the tour, there is so much more happening on the Bonavista Peninsula. The English Harbour Arts Centre, Rising Tide Theatre and Two Whales Coffee Shop and their gallery space are all major contributors as well.

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