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Love of Place: The Fogo Island Artist Studios

Posted on May 10, 2016
By Sienna Jae Taylor

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the collapse of the 400-year-old cod fishery threatened the economic and cultural fogo-island-artist-res.jpgviability of most rural communities. Fogo Island and Change Islands, among the oldest settlements in Canada, are no exception.The Shorefast Foundation, a Canadian registered charity, is dedicated to creating cultural and economic resiliency for Fogo Island and Change Islands. Through its daughter organization, the Fogo Island Inn, Shorefast is building on the culture and ecology of the Islands to create a leading geo-tourism destination.

Fogo Island is a small, remote yet accessible island located off the Northeast coast of Newfoundland. It is bounded by the shores of the North Atlantic Ocean, home to just over 2300 hundred people living in ten distinct communities. "Fogo Island is big and small – big enough to be interesting, yet small enough to know". And boy, is it interesting. In response to the collapse of the 400-year-old cod fishery and the economic and cultural threat that followed, the community turned to art as a way to heal and rebuild resiliency.

"Art is a way of knowing, of belonging, participating, of questioning, of innovating. It is a way of participating in a global conversation and a way of making sense of the world. Art is a form of social exchange and, significantly, has the potential to enact social change." (Shorefast Foundation).

Fogo Island Arts brings international attention to the Islands by "organizing projects involving leading artists and scholars working at the intersections of art, heritage and social enterprise. Fogo Island Arts is a driving force in the creation of opportunities to learn and innovate while developing new ways of approaching business in rural communities."

Upon arrival to this beautiful corner of the earth, visitors' reactions are often ones of astonishment. The island is home to the Fogo Island Artist Studios – four incredible studios where artists staying in the nearest community can come to do their work. These studios aren't your average studios – each space is uniquely built into the land – on stilts in the traditional way and in keeping with the local architecture, but infused with very contemporary vibes. Each studio has been built to guarantee low impact on, but strong connection to, the surrounding environment.

In the video, Design on the Edge, artist Silke Otto-Knapp, an artist utilizing the studios on Fogo Island, talks about her experience working in the spaces. Silke highlights the ever-changing experience of working in these studios and how the space actually lures her to nature and has sparked her desire to be outside, experiencing the natural world. The Artist Studios have not only provided an inspiring location for artists to work on their craft, but they connects artists and visitors alike to nature, and to one another. As the studios draw people in from all over the world, a greater sense of community and connection is realized.

The Fogo Island Artist Studios are more than just spaces to be creative, they are an opportunity to rediscover the love of place. Zita Cobb, Founder and CEO of Shorefast Foundation, talks about the importance of the love of place and its connection to community and social change. Zita believes that true human joy comes from nature and culture and that knowledge, the knowledge we need to create real change in our communities, comes not from the information we gather online, but from experience – experience that can only be found in the natural world, or entangled up in our connections with one another. Knowledge comes from re-discovering space and place. Once we rediscover and experience this love of place, love for community will inevitably follow, and with a love for community comes the desire for positive, lasting change.

Although the Shorefast Foundation and Fogo Island Arts was established to support economic and cultural viability in Fogo Island, Zita suggests that there are more important things than financial capital in a community. Change comes from a love of place. It is developed from art, from nature, from relationships, from love, from learning, from experience.

Fogo Island provides a beautiful example of community resiliency and how it can be re-built after crisis. It is also a beautiful example of how community resiliency enables a place to "bounce back" after crisis; is often linked to the desire to connect with nature and one another; and, emerges from a deep sense of place.

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Sienna Jae Taylor, Cities Deepening Community

Sienna Jae Taylor

By Sienna Jae Taylor

Sienna Jae Taylor has a love for all things community and a deep passion for positive, social change. She recently worked with the Tamarack Institute as a Community Animator and previous to that was a member of the Pillar Nonprofit Network team as the 2015 ChangeTheWorld Coordinator. Sienna brings to her work experience in community engagement and animation, strength and creativity in the art of communication and a natural flair for relationship building. Sienna is motivated by the incredible world-changers and inspiring projects that she encounters everyday and believes that with a little community, celebration and passion, anything is possible.

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