Bonavista Biennale 2017

Catherine Beaudette & Patricia Grattan

Bonavista Biennale 2017 is a large-scale exhibition of contemporary Canadian visual art, bringing together works by 25 leading Newfoundland and other Canadian artists on the occasion of Canada’s 150th anniversary. Presented in a variety of non-gallery sites and spaces, the Biennale will provide visitors and area residents with a unique encounter with this spectacular area of Newfoundland where history and traditional culture combine with art by both newer and established artists. Visitors will explore a 50-kilometer loop by car and on foot through towns, outports and coastal landscape to see painting, photography, sculpture, video and other digital art in such places as a micro-brewery, an abandoned fish store, an old schoolhouse, an unused seal plant, a beach and more.

We sat down with Sarah Agnew, a volunteer with the Bonavista Biennale, to chat about this amazing project! Here is our interview with Sarah:

What is the name and location of your event?

Our event is called Bonavista Biennale 2017, which runs from August 17 to September 17, 2017. “Biennale” (bee-enn-al-ay) is the Italian word for “biennial” – something that happens every two years.  The term “biennale” is used for art exhibitions which happen every other year in cities around the world, the most famous (and first) being the Venice Biennale. There are also biennales is Berlin, Montreal, Vancouver, Shanghai, Marrakech, Bucharest and many other places. Bonavista Biennale 2017 takes place on the Bonavista Peninsula in various locations and sites on a loop around the top of the Peninsula, from King’s Cove to Trinity. This year’s Bonavista Biennale is the first; subsequent Bonavista Biennales will be in 2019, 2021 and so on.


Who are the founders of your business?

Bonavista Biennale is a project of 2 Rooms Contemporary Art Projects, which is a non-profit gallery, museum and artist residency in Duntara, NL on Bonavista Bay. 2 Rooms was founded by Catherine Beaudette, who resides in both Duntara and Toronto, ON. Catherine is one of the two curators for the 2017 Bonavista Biennale; the other curator is Patricia Grattan (St. John’s NL). 


When did the Biennale start?

Summer of 2017, the year of Canada’s 150th anniversary, seemed like an appropriate time to launch Bonavista Biennale. We began working on it in 2015.


How many employees do you have?

The Biennale is currently organized and run by a small group of volunteers; we now have one person on contract. However, we are posting contract opportunities as we get closer the date of the exhibition. As the Biennale is seasonal, for just one month during the summer, all positions are part-time contracts leading up to and during the Biennale. Future job opportunities and employment will depend on the direction and funding for the next Bonavista Biennale.


Where did the idea for the Biennale come from?

Like many ideas for businesses and other ventures, the idea for the Bonavista Biennale came from a few friends talking about the potential for a major art event on the Bonavista Peninsula. They did some early exploratory research, fleshed the idea out, and decided to make it happen. 


How did the Bonavista Biennale get started?

A volunteer Organizing Committee, including the curators, came together to drive the Biennale idea forward. All members of the Committee are still actively involved, playing different volunteer roles. A significant focus of our efforts has been securing support and funding for the project. As of today, Bonavista Biennale 2017 has financial support from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Government of Canada’s Canada 150 Fund and the Newfoundland Arts Council, as well as a founding sponsorship from Fisher’s Loft in Port Rexton, NL. We are working closely with heritage and cultural organizations, town councils, businesses and individuals to build local support and involvement. And we continue to raise funds in the public and private sectors, and among individual donors.


Why did you choose Bonavista for the Biennale’s location and what is the projects goal?

The people involved in starting the Bonavista Biennale mostly live full-time on the Bonavista Peninsula, and all share a belief in and commitment to the potential for the area. We believe that a major bi-annual art exhibition of regional, national and international note can contribute to a future already unfolding in the area with growing cultural tourism, new economic ventures, educational opportunities and in-migration. The Bonavista Biennale will be an on-going, rural-based national art event, unique in the Atlantic Provinces at this time, and significant in the Canadian cultural landscape. We hope that the Bonavista Biennale will become a point of pride for the Province and the Peninsula, and an internationally-recognized cultural meeting place for artists, art lovers, tourists and residents.


What is your favourite part about working for a Newfoundland based startup like this?

As for any start-up, there is a great deal of planning, research, learning and work to do, and never enough time!  The reward comes in several areas:

• Seeing an idea take shape as a real live project

• Being able to bring such an exciting exhibition — leading artists, engaging and challenging works, interesting speakers and workshops— to the Peninsula for anyone to visit and enjoy

• The significant interest and support we have had to date from funders, other organizations, communities and individuals

• Contributing to the profile of the Bonavista Peninsula as a must-visit destination

• Contributing to increased tourism revenue and seasonal employment resulting from interest in, and visitors to, the area


How did the CBDC work with the Bonavista Biennale to move the project forward?

CBDC provided a grant, early in our development process, for a consultant to develop fundraising and communication strategies for the project. This gave us important early insight and direction for further planning and implementation. 

Thank you so much Sarah for sitting down to chat with us! Its always a pleasure to be able to share what's happening in the province!

Visit the website at www.bonavistabiennale.com to learn more!