Spotlight on Union House Arts

With puffins, cool cafes, great hiking and breathtaking scenery as far as the eye can see, the Bonavista Peninsula is a must-visit destination for locals and tourists alike. Now, thanks to the work of a dedicated arts-loving group, there will soon be another reason to place this hot spot at the top of the list.

Renovation work has begun on one of Port Union’s historic duplexes. When it is complete, the Union House Arts building will include an art gallery and studio, screening room, community kitchen and more.

If you’ve ever visited the historic town of Port Union, located on the east side of the peninsula, you are likely familiar with the iconic red duplexes that line Main Street. One of these is currently being renovated to house a dynamic new arts space, which will bring residents and guests together in the spirit of community, creativity and collaboration.

The ultimate goal of Union House Arts (UHA) is to bring artists, residents and visitors together to work and share ideas. The space itself, says UHA, will be experimental in nature with a focus on place-based programming and knowledge building and sharing.

The project was initiated by Jane Walker (artist and researcher) and Ruth Weller-Malchow (Art Bonavista Productions Inc.), in collaboration with Edith Samson and the Sir William Ford Coaker Heritage Foundation.

“We have since grown our steering committee to include Kate Lahey, Michael Flaherty, John Weber, and Strat Canning. There is a breadth of experience within our leadership and I am confident that we will be able to collectively build a thoughtful and inclusive artspace,” Walker says.

While Walker says there is not yet an official launch date for the space, she expects a soft launch later this year, with the building up and running in 2019.

“The building is really shaping up. Our heritage bay windows are being installed now and you can really imagine how the space will feel when the restoration is complete,” she says.

Last summer, UHA competed in the National Trust for Canada’s “This Place Matters” crowdfunding competition, resulting in a win of $30,000 to help with the restoration. The funds are going a long way. When it is complete, the space (with interior design by celebrated Newfoundland artist/architect Frank Lapointe) will include an art gallery and studio, as well as a screening room. In keeping with the collaborative spirit of the project, it will also feature a community room for workshops and events, a community kitchen, an artist-in-residence space and backyard garden plots.

“As the artspace grows and begins to define itself and the needs of the community, more ideas will emerge about how we can best utilize the space,” Walker says.

“At this stage it’s all ideas. The committee is imagining creative programming that will support community members of all ages; we are hoping to establish partnerships with the schools and some other community organizations in the region,” she adds.

“It’s been great to see so many people employed already on the restoration project. I hope that initial involvement will spark some curiosity for the future of the space and our programming.”