Por­traits in the street

Out­door art ex­hibit gar­ner­ing at­ten­tion in his­toric Cupids


Cupids is a pho­tog­ra­pher’s par­adise. You can’t help but be im­pressed by the pride res­i­dents take in their sur­round­ings. Build­ings sport a new coat of paint, plants and flow­ers bloom in pro­fu­sion, and small boats rise and fall in the har­bour. Some­thing big is go­ing on in the town.

The first-time vis­i­tor to his­toric Cupids sees more than its rugged beauty. Cling­ing to the ex­te­rior of sev­eral build­ings is world-class art­work.

A framed por­trait leaps out from the can­vas. The im­age of De­mas­duit holds spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance for the prov­ince. It’s the only known por­trait of the Beothuk woman. As one of the last sur­vivors of her peo­ple, she gazes for­lornly into the cam­era.

This clas­sic im­age is one of 18 framed por­traits on ex­hibit in Cupids un­til Oct. 1. They are mounted to the ex­te­rior of build­ings on Seafor­est Drive, from the Cupids Hos­pi­tal­ity Cen­tre to the Akerman Build­ing, the nerve cen­tre of Cupids400 Inc.

To help cel­e­brate Cupids’ 400th an­niver­sary as Canada’s first English set­tle­ment, the Por­trait Gallery of Canada brought Por­traits in the Street to the town. This is the first time the pro­gram, which is part of Li­brary and Archives Canada, has been seen in the At­lantic re­gion. Last ex­hib­ited in the Van­cou­ver 2010 Win­ter Olympics, it has now com­pleted its jour­ney from sea to sea.

The por­traits in Cupids re­volve around new be­gin­nings and first con­tacts.

Kathi Stacey, cul­tural tourism of­fi­cer with Cupids400 Inc., said, “ The por­traits have a Cana­dian con­nec­tion, not nec­es­sar­ily a Cupids con­nec­tion. We wanted the ex­hibit to con­nect us with all of Canada.”

The process to ac­quire the ex­hibit be­gan some eight months ago.

“ The Gallery won­dered if we were in­ter­ested in part­ner­ing with them,” Stacey ex­plained. “ We were very pleased to have an ex­hibit of por­traits in con­junc­tion with our cel­e­bra­tions.”

A rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the Gallery vis­ited Cupids and scouted out build­ings rec­om­mended by lo­cal peo­ple. “ We were look­ing for build­ings on which peo­ple would be sur­prised to see the por­traits,” Stacey com­mented.

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions were sent to Ot­tawa and a lo­ca­tion plan was cre­ated. The Gallery made the re­pro­duc­tions and shipped them to Cupids. With the help of vol­un­teers, the por­traits were put in place.

“ Res­i­dents are proud of their com­mu­nity, and build­ing own­ers were co-op­er­a­tive,” Stacey stated. “ They also saw it as a nice way to high­light their prop­erty.”

The por­traits are made from sturdy ma­te­rial that al­lows them to be dis­played out­side, to with­stand all kinds of weather.

To­day a walk­ing tour through Cupids brings the tourist face-to-face with por­traits of both known in­di­vid­u­als and ev­ery­day cit­i­zens, whose lives and ac­tions have shaped the coun­try, from the At­lantic to the Pa­cific, over the past 400 years. Works by well-known pro­fes­sional artists are bal­anced by im­ages by or­di­nary peo­ple. Both Cana­dian and in­ter­na­tional artists are fea­tured.

Ac­cord­ing to its web­site, the mis­sion of the Gallery “ is to hon­our, com­mem­o­rate and cel­e­brate those who have shaped this coun­try.” The re­sponse from view­ers has been up­beat. “ The ex­hibit is at­tract­ing a lot of peo­ple,” Stacey said. “ We see them tak­ing pic­tures of the por­traits all the time. Their re­ac­tion is of­ten, ‘ Where did that come from?’ “

In ad­di­tion to the 18 por­traits on pub­lic dis­play in Cupids, there is a “photo op” site out­side the Akerman Build­ing. You can stand be­hind a frame, in front of a Cupids scene, and have your por­trait cap­tured for pos­ter­ity.

The out­door ex­hibit in Cupids ac­tu­ally be­gins in St. John’s. In a joint part­ner­ship be­tween the two mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, the Gallery mounted an im­age out­side St. John’s City Hall. It is of Ge­orge Cartwright, the English­man who spent time in Labrador as a trader, ex­plorer and en­tre­pre­neur.

“ The im­age is in­tended to en­tice view­ers to make the trip to his­toric Cupids to view the full ex­hibit,” Stacey ex­plained.

Photo by Bur­ton K. Janes/The Com­pass One of the por­traits on dis­play in Cupids is a paint­ing of De­mas­duit. She was one of the last sur­vivors of the Beothuks in New­found­land.

Photo by Bur­ton K. Janes/The Com­pass

Kathi Stacey is the cul­tural tourism of­fi­cer with Cupids400 Inc.

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