Drawing inspiration from art spaces such as Callan Workhouse Union in Ireland, and Eigg Box in Scotland (two well-known development facilities and hubs for art, design, research, and community activities), Union House in Port Union has begun development in partnership with Edith Samson and The Coaker Foundation.
It’s happening under the direction of Ruth Weller-Malchow and Jane Walker. Walker and Weller-Malchow are two vibrant forces in the rejuvenation of the Bonavista environs. It all started when The Sir William Ford Coaker Heritage Foundation started seeking ideas for the restoration of Heritage Buildings located in the Port Union National Historic District.
An idea was launched to redevelop one of the row house duplexes that line Main Street in Port Union into a space for exhibiting crafters or artists; a multi-purpose space for a community centre that functions as a bridge between professional artist and the community.
The space will aim to work collaboratively with artist-run spaces in St. John’s and throughout the province. The ultimate goal of Union House is to build a space for residents and artists to work and share together, expand ideas about how and where art can be shown, and to create an environment that is accessible to people of all experiences and interests.
Union House would provide space for contemporary artists based in Newfoundland and Labrador to show new works, curate group exhibitions, and engage meaningfully with Port Union and surrounding communities.
The building is currently being restored based on architectural drawings by local artist and architect, Frank Lapointe. The renovated building will have a gallery space and studio, library and bookshop, a multimedia screening room, multi-purpose room, community kitchen, an artist studio, an open-concept office space, accessible restrooms, storage space, and two residential spaces that may used as a short-term rental or for a visiting artist, volunteer, or staff member.
As of now (and until July 17th) the Coaker Foundation is competing in a crowdfunding competition called THIS PLACE MATTERS. Run by the National Trust of Canada, This Place Matters aims to bring communities, partners, and young people together to renew and improve the vitality of their historic places.
The campaign is a way to raise much-needed funding to take on essential projects that include restoration, accommodating new uses, or improving visitor amenities at historic places. The Union House is the only project in the running that is located in Newfoundland. So if you’re feeling patriotic, or inspired by the vision of Union House, you can vote every 24 hours, from now until July 17th.
As for making donations, for every dollar you give, an extra vote is generated for the project. To vote, you have to register an account with the National Trust of Canada site, but it doesn’t take much time. Simply click the “Vote Now” button to be directed towards creating an account.