If you enjoy strolling around downtown St. John’s, chances are you’re familiar with Johnny Ruth & Living Planet. The proudly local business has been a fixture in the downtown core for years now, delighting shoppers and passersby with their fun and lively window displays and wide selection of hand silk-screened t-shirts and housewares (with designs from local artists and graphic designers).
What people may not be familiar with is just how deep the business’s arts support runs. In addition to supporting several non-profits, its sponsorship portfolio includes the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival, Festival of New Dance, Eastern Edge Gallery, Opera on the Avalon, Resource Centre for the Arts (RCA), and the Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Festival among others.
Over the years, Johnny Ruth & Living Planet have taken their appreciation for the arts right through their own front doors, staging performances by various local artists and musicians in their front window (one of the most recent being a live performance by Sandy Morris and Jamie Dart for Customer Appreciation Day). The business supports the arts in other unique ways, such as the RCA fundraiser “Boy Pillow,” which featured pillows screen-printed with the faces of local artists including Sherman Downey, Mark Bragg, Duane Andrews and others.
“Johnny Ruth & Living Planet has always been a big supporter of the local arts community. We have come to be known for our window performances and installations. It started at our former Johnny Ruth location (166 Water Street) when local group The Novaks wanted to use the window for a photoshoot. From there, we saw the window not only as a display – but as a stage. Performance opportunities started organically from there,” says owner/manager Kim Winsor.
“We also like to invite local musicians to play in our window on weekends to add some life to the JR & LP and downtown shopping experience.”
While the window performances shine the spotlight on local artists, helping them to reach an audience they may not have access to otherwise, the business benefits as well says Kim.
“For us, we benefit from the creativity of these artists and performers, continually inspiring us in our work and helping to create the positive energy in the store that we so value,” she says.
“Partnering with the local arts community has greatly benefited our business. By nurturing these relationships, it helps us with our awareness of what is happening in the province and also helps us with our voice in the community.”
Recently, Johnny Ruth & Living Planet commissioned local artist Benjy Kean to create a piece to send a message to City Hall regarding the recent tax hike for local businesses “that effectively expressed our sentiment but in the fun, unique way that is expected from Johnny Ruth & Living Planet,” says Kim.
“We really enjoyed collaborating with Benjy on this subject. By doing so, we were able to draw attention to a local artist, our business and to an important topic in this city.”
Connecting with the artistic community, Kim says, helps not only businesses like Johnny Ruth & Living Planet, but the province as a whole.
“This province is known for its unique beauty and culture – and a large part of that comes from the arts (storytelling, craft, song, visual and performing arts). This is a huge part of what draws people to Newfoundland and occupies a special place in their heart.”