Monday, 22 October 2012

The Plantation, St. John's most exciting new destination

The highlight of last week was, for me, giving a tour for a small group of "culture vultures" from across Canada – an annual event lead by novelist Kevin Major.  A "culture vulture" is my affectionate term for those of us who consume culture.  We regularly look forward and eagerly ingest the creative products of writers, musicians and visual artists of all stripes.  We are not the primary creators but we are an an essential part of the food-chain, or if that makes my artists friends wince, an essential part of the equation.  This is a point I'd like to emphasize: for every musician on stage or producing a CD, for every textile artist lovingly weaving, dyeing, etc dozens and dozens of listeners, viewers, collectors, and patrons are required to fulfill their function.  It's a cultural ecology with many crucial parts or people, creators and consumers alike.  Of course, there are the many, often woefully underpaid, workers who keep the wheels of the cultural industry turning as well.
You have to visit the scenic Plantation, regardless of the weather.

Now back to the tour, our destination was St. John's Plantation, an existing new incubator site located on Quidi Vidi.  And as I was told, "if you are not sure how to pronounce Quidi Vidi you can always call it the "gut" as it feeds into the Atlantic Ocean.

The easiest way to access the Plantation on line is through one of its partners:
Check the right hand side of the screen under Opportunities.

The Plantation is an ideal mix of stunning landscape location, vernacularly inspired contemporary architecture, strategic funding on the part of RBC and the province, and last but certainly not least seven studios inhabited by seven talented emerging artist-craftspeople or artisans.  The mix of media represented is excellent:  Graham Blair the printmaker, Heather Mills a glass and metal artist, two potters whose work is like night and day – Laura Higenell and Stephanie Smith– Jessica Butler a jeweller and textile artists: Cathia Finkel and Morgaine Parnham.  Each artisan showed us and allowed us to handle their particular brand of media wizardry.

Everyone I have talked to who has visited the Plantation, whether they are locals, visiting craftspeople, or "civilian" tourists have commented on the "buzz" of the place.  The site has a palpable frisson of creative energy that I have never experienced in art schools, subsidized craft studios such as Harbourfront in TO, or other incubator programs in Canada.  The Plantation is a very special phenomenon.
One of Graham Blair's iconic images.  All his prints are made by hand.

The tour was supposed to last about 45 minutes and we had to work and cutting it off at two hours.  I think we all had fun.  Beforehand I handed a selection of my catalogues from media that matched up with the special interest of the craftspeople.  For example, an Audrey Feltham catalogue for Graham Blair, a Michael Massie catalogue for potter Laura Higenell because of her interest in teapots, a Peter Powning catalogue for Heather Mills because like Peter, she works in both glass and metal.

For the visit I had reviewed by notes from previous visits but I also made a short list of questions that had gone unanswered for me.  For example, it had lingered in my mind "why were Graham's prints so incredibly affordable/inexpensive?"; "when Jessica was an historically accurate metalsmith as a Viking in Gros Morne, which gender was she dressed as?".  I recalled that one of the craftspeople had described herself as an "almost Mennonite" - what was that about?  This tour was a great excuse to dig for answers.  And it took little encouragement to get our little band of "culture vultures" to ask their own.

Stephanie's Smith's smoked fired vessels are a welcome addition to the St. John's clay scene.

Next stop?  SOFA Chicago here I come!


  1. Thanks Gloria! That was a a great crowd.

    You can also catch up with us at:

  2. Thanks for sharing, nice post! Post really provice useful information!

    An Thái Sơn với website chuyên sản phẩm máy đưa võng hay máy đưa võng tự động tốt cho bé là địa chỉ bán máy đưa võng giá rẻ tại TP.HCM và giúp bạn tìm máy đưa võng loại nào tốt hiện nay.