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.