TROUT RIVER CONTEMPORARY
Location Trout River, Western Newfoundland, Canada
Venue Fisherman’s Museum
Project Timeline May-September 2019
A Project of Amber Art & Design
In partnership with ArtsEverywhere
Facilitated by Natalia Crocker
TROUT RIVER CONTEMPORARY is a seasonal artist residency — an experimental art and research project that focuses on local stories, lived experiences and visual, nautical culture of fishing communities in Western Newfoundland. Trout River like many other small fishing communities in Western Newfoundland continues to feel the devastating effects of the 1992 cod moratorium; a diminishing local fishing economy; and mass outward migration for employment. The project seeks to promote cultural preservation through the documentation of personal, community narratives and the creation of artworks - from local, underutilized natural resources and leftovers — that reflect on Trout River’s history and illuminate its potential for transformation.
Trout River Contemporary has two primary objectives:
- to enhance cultural tourism by establishing the Fisherman’s Museum as a historical archive and contemporary art space, attracting travelers and locals to participate in projects, exhibitions and events
- to integrate artistic practice with environmental research, empower communities to articulate the rippling socio-economic effects of the regulations and quotas system and impact policy decisions
In June 2017, Amber Art & Design member, Sidd Joag was invited to Woody Point, Newfoundland to participate in a week long “art and ecology” think-tank called Liminus. Following this initial introduction to the region and the issues effecting the local fisheries, he returned with video-journalist Rebecca Peeler in August 2017 to produce a multi-media report on the current situation. (http://curseofgeography.artseverywhere.ca) During these visits, he was able to establish close relationships with residents of nearby Trout River, often considered “the other side of the tracks,” from the upper class community of Woody Point. Because of its low income level, negative reputation and geographic isolation (e.g. there is no cellphone service, only one road leads in and out and is impassable for stretches of the winter), Trout River has received no public or private investment in its revitalization. With this understanding, and through close consultation with local fishermen the idea behind Trout River Contemporary began to take shape.
In July 2018, Sidd and Rebecca, along with architect Daniel Phelan, self-funded the first iteration of Trout River Contemporary for proof of concept. During a week-long residency they created the first installation, in an unused shed on the beach. The opening was received by the community with great enthusiasm. Seeing the resounding impact on the community and the need to continue the project, the Trout River Town Council voted to re-open the defunct Fisherman’s Museum.
In October 2018, Amber Art & Design, along with fisheries ecologist Steve Crawford and musician Jacob Cohen, came on board to solidify Trout River Contemporary, designing and implementing a more robust residency and research program. This second phase was supported by a small grant from Musagetes, an Ontario based arts organization.
For one week, our team engaged with residents, drawing them into the conceptualization process, listening to their stories and archiving their family photos. We created a mural on the outside of the museum, along with an audio-visual installation and workshop space inside. Again, the work created reflected local visual culture and utilized readily available and unused materials: ropes, fishing nets, traps and driftwood. The opening was a success attracting dozens of residents as well as townsfolk from neighboring communities. This let us know that we had to find a way to continue the project, in partnership with the town.
Trout River has no available funds, and so Amber Art & Design is applying for A Blade of Grass Fellowship in order to continue the residency program from May-September 2019, fishing and tourist season. Our primary objectives in this next phase are:
- exposing residents and local artists to artists dealing with related environmental and labor issues from other parts of the world
- to devise a plan of sustainability beyond the fellowship period, both in earned income and supplementary funding (e.g. Parks Canada, Canada Arts Council) that will be administered by the town of Trout River
This third phase of Trout River Contemporary will support three artists-in-residence at the Fisherman’s Museum. We are deliberately bringing artists of color to Trout River, to challenge the common binary in socially engaged practice. Most often we see “white” artists working in people of color communities, and almost never do we see artists of color engaging with “white” communities in the same way. We see this project as a means to establish a new precedent in socially engaged art.
Because familiarity and trust within this small rural community is essential, members of Amber Art & Design will accompany each artist-in-residence, supporting their integration, project design and implementation throughout the process. Works created during this phase of the residency will be included as part of the Curse of Geography exhibit at the Art Gallery of Guelph in January 2020.
- Site specific installations that will be presented at the ArtsEverywhere Festival 2020
- A series of multi-media documentation to be presented on ArtsEverywhere.ca
- On-going contemporary arts programs for the community
- a funded international artist residency
- a venue both for the local, Canadian and international communities (and as a cultural attraction during tourist season)
- an alternative educational space for local youth
Amber Art & Design, is a six-person public art collective based in Philadelphia and New York City. For the past several years, Amber has developed successful site-specific “neighborhood museums.” Spaces for communities to engage with artists, researchers and organizers from other locations, to devise solutions to pressing contemporary social and environmental issues. Amber currently has similar projects completed, underway or in development in: Sao Paulo, Brazil, Philadelphia and Allentown, USA and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
STEVE CRAWFORD is a fish/eries ecologist who has worked with Indigenous Nations on the Laurentian Great Lakes from 1993 to 2004. His experience in that capacity includes the science of fisheries assessment and management decision-making, ecological evaluation of introduced species, and environmental assessments ranging from cumulative effects of local degradation to the world's largest nuclear power generating stations. In 2004, Steve started at the University of Guelph in a collaborative faculty partnership with the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation - the first professorship in the world to be sponsored by an Indigenous Nation in the natural sciences. Under terms of this faculty partnership, Steve has focused on pragmatic research in three key areas: (a) Great Lakes fisheries ecology/management, (b) assessing the role of science in natural resource management and environmental assessments, and (c) improving practical relations between Indigenous and Science knowledge systems.
NATALIA CROCKER is the local coordinator of Trout River Contemporary. She works at Elephants Head RV Park, and is a member of the Trout River Trail Committee - a new group she co-founded - to restore the towns hiking trails. Her primary focus is the enhancement of cultural tourism in this area of Gros Morne National Park.