Artists from all over the world are attracted to Woody Point each year, for the landscape and the festivals, but also for the sense of community that exists there, holding everything together.
When David Maggs, founder of Gros Morne Summer Music, made the move from downtown Toronto to Woody Point 12 years ago, he was drawn to a place where creativity did not have the compartmentalized mentality of a bigger centre.
“I think rural places breed interdisciplinarity,” said Maggs. “They breed a kind of genre-bending in a way that I find really healthy and exciting.”
Maggs is also behind the Liminus Festival, which aims to take the boundary-breaking creativity and apply it to global issues. He is among countless artists and creatives who consider the area to be a place where they feel like their “best selves.”
The park has a strong hold over people, and with mountains, fjords, exposed mantle, and whales backdropping the Bonne Bay area, it’s not hard to see why. Tom Cochrane, Creative Director of Old Crow Magazine, said, “You feel an impact from the landscape. It just hits you. And that can do interesting things to your creativity and impact your work pretty profoundly.”
Old Crow Magazine is a digital media platform that celebrated its first birthday this summer. The magazine is already known for its live music videos of Newfoundland musicians and touring acts playing in remote corners of the park, with stunning backgrounds of iconic landscapes.
For Jody Richardson, songwriter and actor from St. John’s, understanding the history of the communities is what has made spending time in Gros Morne such an integral part of his creative practice. “I’ve become really fascinated by all Bonne Bay culture,” said Richardson. “You have these really thrilling challenges to do right by the subject matter, to make sure that what you’re doing is directly relatable to everybody.”
Beyond the local history and geography of Bonne Bay, the area also thrives on the strong sense of community. Unlike many other tourist destinations in the province, the towns within the Gros Morne National Park boundaries are self-sufficient, in that they have the ability to survive on their own industries without the help of the tourism. The fish plant in the heart of historic downtown Woody Point is a prime example of this.
Likewise, much of the arts development in the Bonne Bay region is community based. The communities build festivals for the recreation of the people living in those communities, to improve their own quality of life rather than for the economic draw, which is what increases the value of those festivals. Arts organizations setting up in the area also recognize the value of enriching local culture in an organic way.
“If you don’t create art for the reasons that humans are driven to create art, you’re going to create art products,” Maggs said, “which are not going to have the same social and economic impact for which you’re creating the art in the first place.”
Richardson believes that artists bear a responsibility to the area that they are creating in. “Your job is to talk to the people who are the story keepers,” he said. “Try to understand it the best you can, and then reflect it.”
The arts development in the Gros Morne area is a unique microcosm that was born out of strong communities and passionate people creating an arts destination.