Art encounters on the edge: This event is transforming a historic part of Newfoundland

The inaugural Bonavista Biennale is bringing art to the literal edge of the province as part of Canada's 150th celebrations.

The Bonavista Biennale — part of #Canada150 — is bringing art to the literal edge of the province

Newfoundland's historic Bonavista peninsula will be the home of a new art event this summer. (Bonavista Biennale)

There's no shortage of creative celebrations happening across the country this year for Canada's 150th, but the Bonavista Biennale is certainly a must-see for contemporary art lovers.

From August 17th to September 17th, artistic works from 25 leading Canadian artists will be on display throughout the Bonavista Peninsula on the edge — literally — of Newfoundland. Curators Catherine Beaudette and Patricia Grattan have brought together all the artwork for the inaugural event, which aims to "reflect the diversity of social exchange and the ongoing negotiation of Canadian cultural perspectives."

For Beaudette, this will be her 17th summer in Bonavista. Most of the year, she's an instructor at OCAD in Toronto — but she returns every year to her home in Duntara, one of the many tiny communities on the Bonavista Peninsula that often gets overlooked by tourists. It's also where she runs the 2 Rooms Contemporary Art Projects, in a restored 1881 fisherman's home turned into a space for temporary art installations and exhibitions.

(2 Rooms Contemporary Art Projects)

She sees the Bonavista Biennale as bringing new life to a historic part of Newfoundland and Labrador.

"There's life around the peninsula," Beaudette says. "But some places are struggling." Her goal is to use art as an economic generator — a way to draw people in, but to also get the locals involved.

The Biennale's theme guiding Beaudette and Grattan's selections is "art encounters on the edge," referring to John Cabot's landing on the peninsula in 1497.

"Everything is fresh or has a sense of newness, although the artwork isn't necessarily made in 2017," says Beaudette. "There's a theme of coming to Newfoundland, and encountering things for the first time." Everything is contemporary, but experiential: "Anyone can engage, as long as they keep an open mind," she says.

(Sylvia Galbraith/Bonavista Biennale)

The real beauty of the Biennale is that there's no real gallery. Instead, the artists are taking traditional Newfoundland spaces and turning them into temporary exhibitions.

Sara Angelucci, a Toronto-based artist working in photography, video and audio, will be making use of the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Trinity — the oldest wooden church in Newfoundland — for her sound installation titled "The Venetian Forest." The work is part of Angelucci's Arboretum series, using toy bird whistles to set up a nature-inspired atmosphere. Both Angelucci and Beaudette are considering a live performance piece to accompany.

This will be Angelucci's first visit to Newfoundland, and so far she's only seen photographs of the church. "I fell in love with it immediately. It's so beautiful, intimate — and given that it's made of wood, I'm sure it will sound spectacular," she says. "I also love the resonance with the idea of a forest transformed."

Beaudette also realized the importance of including Indigenous voices in the art selection — like that of Barry Pottle's, an Inuk photographer from Nunatsiavut, Labrador.  His photography series titled Foodland Security highlights how Inuit people living in urban centres have difficulty obtaining their traditional foods.

As for the spaces being converted into art exhibitions, some details still need to be ironed out. For example, the abandoned seal tannery in Catalina has been unused for some time, but with a fresh coat of paint and some extra love, it's easily transformed into a beautiful art space. For Beaudette, it's all about taking what's old and revitalizing it into something new.

"Empty space is ideal for artists," Beaudette says.

(Bonavista Biennale)

If you plan on visiting the Bonavista Biennale, you'll be given the opportunity to pop into some rural communities otherwise unvisited on the Bonavista Peninsula. A brochure and a map with explanations will be your guide, and the 26 sites are open daily from 12-5pm daily (although it's recommended to not cram too many stops into one day).

During the duration of the Biennale, artists will be around at various times to interact with locals and visitors. Even if you're a long-time resident or visitor to the Bonavista Peninsula, you're guaranteed a different view.

Bonavista Biennale. August 17 through September 17 in Bonavista, Newfoundland. bonavistabiennale.com