Every time Kayla Bridget Williams-Maclean passes by her new installation at Royal Inn + Suites in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, it’s a sweet reminder of home, and the heartache that comes with missing it.
The NunatuKavut artist, who owns and operates Sandwich Bay Studio, originally created her piece “Nanuk” about a couple of years ago while living in Ontario.
“I was doing pretty good out there with my art. They have a big art scene and I was getting into galleries and stuff,” but, she adds, “I felt like something was missing.”
“I was really homesick. So I just ended up painting…it was just something small I did for myself, and (a) polar bear kind of reminded me of home,” says Kayla, who was born in Goose Bay but whose family is from Cartwright.
The original painting (which Kayla calls one of her favourites) was quite small, about the size of a standard piece of paper, she says, and was sold during a charity auction. So when Andy Turnbull, Chief Executive Officer of Royal Inn + Suites (a Nunacor company), sent her a message saying he was seeking local artwork for the exterior of the hotel and asked if she was interested, Kayla jumped at the opportunity.
“The painting is special to me, but I kind of kicked myself for getting rid of the original,” she laughs. “So to be able to drive by it every day and see it there is really good for me.”
The installation, which shows a polar bear swimming in hues of cool blue and white, adorns a garage door at the property, in a highly visible area, and was officially unveiled on November 11. It’s a piece that Turnbull says the business is proud to display.
“Since we purchased the hotel just about six years ago, we’ve been very focused on supporting the arts community…so we came up with the idea of having a piece of art put on the garage door…It’s a great way to add some appeal to the space and support a local up-and-coming artist,” he says.
Turnbull says Kayla’s piece has received “a ton” of positive feedback, both in person and on the business’s social media channels.
“It’s been extremely well received,” he says, noting that while the business has worked with a variety of artists over the years, they’re especially keen to support Indigenous artists and those who are in the “early days and have a ton of potential, but really need some exposure and some support” – whether it’s a local artist or a small startup business, home-based business or supplier.
Some of the other ways in which Royal Inn + Suites supports the community include purchasing local art for their rooms and displaying local art for sale in their lobby (including work by Charlene Rumbolt of Great Caribou Studio, drum art from Todd Davis of Cartwright, and sealskin art from Sherry Turnbull of Charlottetown). They’ve also sourced sealskin accent pillows for the hotel’s beds from Labrador Upholstery, and arranged for Spruced Up Labrador to handcraft soap for them instead of buying a commercial hotel soap.
“We signed a contract with them, they made our soap, and since that point they’ve opened a storefront, hired other staff (and) significantly increased their production, and is doing very well for themselves,” Turnbull says, adding that they’ve also partnered with local suppliers for various contests and giveaways.
In addition, Royal Inn + Suites also sponsors Business & Arts NL’s public piano at Goose Bay Airport (featuring artwork by Charlene Rumbolt). And this past summer, the business began hosting small, intimate concerts in their courtyard outside featuring local talent, which Turnbull says were very well received.
“We’re planning to do more of that next year, and also incorporating some of that in our new restaurant that we’re opening as well.”
Supporting the local creative community in this way is a win-win for the artists and the business. Embracing local arts, Turnbull adds, is “such a great fit for the hotel because it creates a sense of arrival. It creates a sense of the culture and the landscapes…and creating that flavour of who we are and what we’re all about.”
For artists like Kayla, it’s this kind of support that has made all the difference.
“It means a lot to me…(it) definitely gave me some motivation to continue with my work, because I do this full time,” she says.
“It really is my passion; it’s what I’ve always done. So it feels good.”