The Art of the Matter

Steve Bartlett
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The arts will play major role in effort to create cultural resilience on Fogo Island

The Long Studio is one of four that will be open to artists on Fogo Island this year. Gander’s Todd Saunders designed it. Sheppard Case of St. John’s was the managing architect and prime consultant for the studio, as well as the Fogo Island Inn. — Photo by Bent Rene Synnevag

Last in a three-part series —

Social networking, Fogo Island style, won’t revolve around computers, Facebook or Twitter.

No, if things happen as planned, networking on the isle of fire will see visiting artists and locals meeting up, sharing experiences and inspiring each other.

“Our main task will be to facilitate this kind of meeting with the local people,” says Elisabet Gunnarsdottir, director of the Fogo Island Arts Corp.

It’s running a burgeoning artists residency program with the support of the Shorefast Foundation, an organization working to foster cultural resilience on the island through a five-star inn and arts programs.

Artists accepted for the residency program will come to Fogo Island for three months.

They will create in a contemporary studio designed by Gander’s Todd Saunders and live in a traditional house that’s been purchased and restored. (For more on those homes, see story on page A4)

The desired result would see the artists and residents encounter each other, share stories, sorrows and joys, and gain knowledge and inspiration.

Gunnarsdottir, an Icelander who worked with a residency program in Norway before relocating to Fogo Island, says it’s a way to create something special, based on her experience.

In Norway, she said, the artist centre was on a hill and the community was below it.

A lot of her efforts went into dragging one group out to meet the other.

“But when we managed to create meeting places for those two groups of people, magic happened,” she says.

It’s hoped powerful spells will be cast on Fogo Island as artists and islanders interact.

The focus of the residency program will be art.

“It’s not about just making beautiful things without questioning it,” Gunnarsdottir says.

The initiative is bent toward visual arts, but they’d like to include as many disciplines as possible at first.

Last year, an open call for artists, curators and filmmakers generated 130 applications.

Eight artists were successful and they will each spend three months on Fogo Island in 2011-12.

Gunnarsdottir is thrilled with the response and anticipates the interest will only grow.

She notes an artist from New Delhi came last year and it worked out so well he’s returning.

Gunnarsdottir says the arts corp will facilitate some meetings with locals through lectures, seminars and its production program, which has locals designing and creating furnishings for the Fogo Island Inn.

This year’s production program includes a seminar on the idea of remote and a theatre master class on Henrik Ibsen’s work led by a team from the National Arts Centre.

“The production program, it’s for us to be able to make sure something stays behind,” Gunnarsdottir says.

The Fogo Island Arts Corp. will also run a program for people who visit and for guests of the Fogo Island Inn, which is slated to open in 2012.

“In most of what we do, we have locally-rooted themes, locally rooted meanings. They always have inspiration in what is here, what this place is all about.” Elisabet Gunnarsdottir

The objective is to bring the visitors, artists and locals together on different-themed excursions.

Participants will look back at the Beothuck or first Europeans, observe what’s happening at the art studios or ponder questions about the changes facing places like Fogo Island.

“In most of what we do, we have locally-rooted themes, locally rooted meanings,” Gunnarsdottir says. “They always have inspiration in what is here, what this place is all about.”

She’s confident the arts corporation’s initiatives will succeed and produce results.

“The people who come here, they all sense how magical this place is and most people can’t really put words to it.

“When you’re here, something happens to you that gives you this fulfilment. Maybe it’s the simplicity of the place. Maybe how authentic and real it is, people’s lives. It’s not pretentious in any way.”

Shorefast founder Zita Cobb hopes the arts programs and inn will have an effect that lasts for decades and decades.

“(In 20 or 30 years’ time) I’d like to think we created a bit of a spirit of entrepreneurial thinking based on who we are,” she says.

Twitter: bartlett_steve

Organizations: Fogo Island Arts Corp.It, Shorefast Foundation, National Arts Centre Gunnarsdottir says.The Fogo Island Arts Fogo Island Inn

Geographic location: Fogo Island, Norway, New Delhi

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Recent comments

  • GWWells
    May 10, 2011 - 14:10

    It appears there exist a certain sector of the residency who have an ill-conceived notion of what Shorefast is all about. Go read their mission statement. Clearly, and in stark contrast to certain learned behaviors, they are NOT there to offer handouts. Quite simply, the need is much too wide spread, for one thing ! No amount of money could ever appease those outstretched hands. Shorefast has obviously read our history books ... surely, they demonstate, this is not the way to go. Our very own provincial government has gone head and ears in the hole doing that exact same thing for years, unend. Sadly, the consequences are: a debt that remains and an unyielding local mentality wherein was left a residual mindset perceptually ( and perpetually) construed that finincial expectancy is a God-given birthright whenever and whereever signs of prosperity and promise stand redolent in their midst. It's time that that box were vacated !

  • Fogo Island Artist
    May 09, 2011 - 14:26

    I'm in all support of promoting Art for Fogo Island, However local Artist have little to no success in getting any support from Shorefast, I've tried constantly to try to gain some support from Shorfast to promote my Artwork on Fogo Island from a fellow Fogo Islander, I hope that Shorefast can look after it's own people and expatriates of the Island before catering to people outside of it's jurisdiction. In saying that, Local Business not affiliated with Shorefast has been doing a great job promoting my Fogo Island Art.