Art impacts our lives in a myriad of ways. It gives us the chance to express ourselves, experience the world on a whole other level and beckons us to pause and think. Art also transforms our spaces and helps illuminate and invigorate the places in which we live and work.
Last May, the newly renovated St. John’s Convention Centre (SJCC) officially opened its doors to residents and visitors. As part of the $65 million expansion, the City of St. John’s approved a one-time amount of $300,000 to acquire, purchase and install artwork by Newfoundland and Labrador artists throughout the 47,000 square foot facility.
Michelle Eagles, SJCC Operations Manager, estimates that from their initial call for submissions in late 2015, they received close to 300 submissions – everything from acrylics and photographs, to prints and oil paintings. They eventually narrowed it down to 12 artists and 36 pieces (not including a piece by Gerald Squires, on loan from the St. John’s International Airport Authority; and the image of an iceberg by Tara Bryan on the façade of the building).
The large pieces fit the scale of the walls, Eagles says, and reflect the building’s contemporary flair, while invoking the warmth and colour of historic St. John’s.
“The whole point of this exercise – well one of course is to support the arts community. But from our end, it really was to bring some of our culture inside…and to develop a stimulating work environment so it’s not so stale. Convention centres are typically very neutral in their design…but we did want to have something that was stimulating in the building, and we also wanted something that sort of fit with our brand and culture,” says Eagles.
“We wanted it to be a contemporary interpretation of Newfoundland culture. That’s what we were looking for in the art.”
With thousands of visitors passing through the doors of the SJCC for meetings, conferences and other events, this presents a perfect opportunity for the artists’ work to be seen outside of a gallery setting. The pieces, Eagles says, are “very much part of the decor” and pamphlets are available which offer information on the artists and their works.
“People marvel at the art all of the time, and ask who’s the artist and whatnot,” Eagles says.
“It really is a bit of a conversation starter for people, so it does what it’s supposed to do.”
Being involved with the city’s art procurement process, Eagles says, helped open her eyes to the versatility of the local arts scene.
“We followed that process, but we kind of had our own spin on things, bringing in folks who were representative of our clients, as well as designers and artists and different people to give their opinion…we had a lot of submissions, and a lot of very good art. It was very difficult to choose pieces,” she says.
“I don’t think I realized how many artists we have and how much there is out there. And that was just the visual art…So, we really do have a lot to offer.”
“I don’t know if businesses realize that that is out there, and it can really make a difference to your business, by having art displayed. It sort of elevates what you’re saying about yourself, as a business. It was a great process for me and I learned a lot.”