The arts enrich our lives in many ways – whether it’s feeling inspired while gazing at the brushstrokes upon a canvas; getting hit with a wave of nostalgia as a guitarist plucks the chords to a tune you heard way back when; or happily losing yourself in a tale penned by one of our many gifted wordsmiths.
Aside from contributing to a fulfilling life, arts and cultural activities are a boon to the economy. In fact, the Conference Board of Canada pegs the annual contribution of the country’s arts and culture industry at $46-billion annually (or 3.8% of the total GDP). According to Statistics Canada, the cultural sector contributed $379-million (1.4%) of GDP to the economy of this province in 2010.
Formed just over a year ago, Bonavista Living is breathing new life into the town by restoring 25 of its architecturally and historically significant buildings to their former glory. A separate branch of the business, Bonavista Creative will offer commercial space for artists (and other professional services not currently operating in the area) to help foster new businesses that will contribute to the community and local economy.
Bonavista Creative has already made inroads in helping transform the town into a creative hub. This past summer, the organization brought together 16 local, regional and provincial artists for their first annual Pop Up Art Gallery Exhibition and Art Walk on Church Street. Ruth Weller-Malchow, Director of Bonavista Creative, says the goal was to gauge local interest in a yearly visual arts event.
“It’s important that we work together with these communities, and also with visitor and cultural industry firms and agencies, in order to maximize the social, cultural and economic development benefits for the entire region,” she explains.
“Elliston has the yearly culinary event ‘Roots, Rants and Roars,’ Trinity has its theatrical offerings and Bonavista already has the amazing summer music/theatre events at the Garrick Theatre. So we felt that the creation of a Bonavista Art Walk would enhance and broaden these existing, well-established cultural industry activities and that this, in turn, would serve to attract more visitors to Bonavista and to the region as a whole.”
In addition to giving the artists exposure, the event also gave visitors and residents the opportunity to take in visual art in unique local venues, while showing venue operators (such as Parks Canada, who offered up two buildings as exhibition spaces) how to expand upon their existing offerings.
“This brought more visitors to these sites and also demonstrated new ways to utilize these buildings and their interior space,” says Weller-Malchow.
The event was well-received with enthusiasm across the board, Weller-Malchow says, and plans are already underway for the next instalment, which will include a number of established and emerging artists from around the province.
“With so few galleries in the province and so much talent in the visual arts, Art Bonavista intends to give artists another opportunity to exhibit their work,” she says.
“We have also been in discussions with venue operators that partnered with us this past year, and some have already agreed to let us use their spaces next year…In addition, we will, of course, be using several of the Bonavista Living premises currently being restored, or which already have been restored, as ‘pop-up’ galleries or venues for ‘guerrilla’ artists.”
With The Boreal Diner and Aunt Sarah’s Chocolate Shop set to open inside the George Templeman House and Linthorne Shop buildings respectively in the spring of 2016, and plans for a Bonavista Biennale in 2017, the cultural and creative revolution in Bonavista is in full swing.