An old school house in Grates Cove has been reborn as an art studio, contributing another piece to the cultural puzzle of the small Trinity South community.
Grates Cove Studios, the brainchild of Terrence and Courtney Howell, opened its doors for the first time on June 11.
Terrence Howell already had a close connection to Grates Cove before the Howells moved there in 2009. His father, Byron Howell, was born there. Terrence grew up in the neighbouring community of Old Perlican before leaving to pursue a fine arts degree at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook.
"My dad used to drive me there every Sunday," said Howell, speaking by phone from his family's home in Grates Cove.
Starting a studio has been a dream of Terrence's since college and became a priority for the couple once they settled in the community. Courtney handles the administrative side of the operation, while Terrence looks after all matters artistic.
A visual artist who previously focused on mixed media artwork, Terrence's most recent fascination has been working with wood. Some pieces, which are sold in the studio's shop, are functional items that could be used day-to-day like kitchenware, box lamps and children's toys, while others he describes as more design-art oriented.
"I have family who've worked as carpenters and cabinet makers," he said.
However, it was his father-in-law who reinvigorated Terrence's interest in woodworking while the Howells were living in Courtney's homestate of Louisiana. Aside from having access to a large workshop filled with tools, Terrence was able to work with wood from old-growth cypress trees cut down in local swamps.
The former schoolhouse includes an open studio space, while the other half of the 3,600-square-foot, two-storey building contains a woodshop. The studio will eventually host art classes where participants will learn to paint.
Terrence believes the building was built in the 1950s. It had been left vacant since the 1990s, when it was last used for a job training program initiated shortly after the collapse of the cod fishery.
"Physically, the building is a work in progress," said Terrence.
The top floor currently houses the shop and studios, while the bottom floor contains the auditorium and stage. The Howells plan to redo the roof and turn the bottom floor into both a traditional printshop and a performance space.
"We'd like to keep the old stage there because it's really charming, and it would be great if we could put off small performances there," said Terrence.
The studio will offer residencies for artists covering a variety of disciplines. Terrence intends to construct a yurt behind the Howells' home for artists to stay in. A yurt is a circular hut-like structure commonly used by people in isolated parts of Central Asia.
"The attraction is hard to put into words," Terrence said, trying to describe why artists will want to work in Grates Cove.
"I think the place has a lot to offer anybody who wants to come here, whether they're tourists, artists or somebody who wants to spend a month, week or day here."
The day before he spoke with The Telegram, Terrence watched from the shore as a pod of whales chased schools of caplin. He said the sounds made by the whales were bouncing off the rocks.
The opening of the studio represents another cultural destination in Grates Cove alongside the Grates Cove Rock Wall National Historic Site and the Cabot Rock Monument.