“A CUL­TURE OF BE­LONG­ING”

ZITA COBB cre­ates a new im­age for Fogo Is­land.

Bulletin - - Contents - By Si­mon Brun­ner Photo: Bent René Syn­nevåg

Ms. Cobb, what is the vi­sion be­hind your Shore­fast Foun­da­tion?

In our work, we are al­ways seek­ing to an­swer the ques­tion of how tra­di­tional com­mu­ni­ties fit into the modern world. How can we hold onto our roots while at the same time par­tic­i­pat­ing in the glob­al­ized world in a mean­ing­ful way? We also want to strengthen our com­mu­nity through knowl­edge.

What does that mean, in con­crete terms?

We use the As­set-based Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment (ABCD) ap­proach, which takes ad­van­tage of a so­ci­ety's strengths and po­ten­tial to pro­mote de­vel­op­ment. We wanted to start with art be­cause it is a way of think­ing and know­ing. In this re­mote place, with its unique land­scape and cul­ture, cre­at­ing a set of con­tem­po­rary art ini­tia­tives seemed like the most nat­u­ral thing in the world to do.

What was your next step?

We also wanted to cre­ate busi­nesses that would con­trib­ute to eco­nomic and cul­tural re­siliency – busi­nesses that make sense for this place and would rein­vest their prof­its in the com­mu­nity.

What busi­nesses did you choose?

Hos­pi­tal­ity is one of Fogo Is­land's nat­u­ral cul­tural as­sets, so build­ing a world-class inn – the Fogo Is­land Inn – was an ob­vi­ous de­ci­sion. And ar­chi­tec­ture and de­sign have an im­por­tant role to play in cre­at­ing ob­jects of beauty and func­tion that also re­flect our hu­man re­la­tion­ships. They make an im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion to a cul­ture of be­long­ing, as we call it – a cul­ture that be­longs to the past, present and fu­ture.

Fogo Is­land is ap­prox­i­mately the size of Brook­lyn. If we could spend a week on the is­land, what should we make sure to see and do?

Fogo Is­land has seven sea­sons. We call them win­ter, pack ice, spring, trap berth, sum­mer, berry and late fall. The best thing to do is to spend time with lo­cal peo­ple who have unique knowl­edge of the is­land. All guests at Fogo Is­land Inn are paired with com­mu­nity hosts who give them a tour of Fogo Is­land and share with them what it is like to live here. Spe­cific ac­tiv­i­ties de­pend on the sea­son, but the most im­por­tant thing is shar­ing knowl­edge. What­ever the sea­son, Fogo Is­land is a sin­gu­larly pow­er­ful place lo­cated in one of the re­main­ing great wilder­nesses – the North At­lantic Ocean. It re­minds us of our own place in the nat­u­ral or­der, which is so much greater than our­selves.

What kinds of vis­i­tors come to Fogo Is­land?

Fogo Is­land isn't a place peo­ple come to by ac­ci­dent – they want to come here. They are in­ter­ested in na­ture and the lo­cal cul­ture. And they don't mind a bit of a strug­gle to reach this des­ti­na­tion.

Do you see your­self as an ex­am­ple for other wealthy in­di­vid­u­als?

All of us should be in­volved with and con­trib­ute to our com­mu­ni­ties. And if you aren't yet part of a com­mu­nity, you should find one. It's the best lens to view the world and your own place in it. It helps us dis­cover what is truly im­por­tant.

What val­ues have guided you through­out your life?

My old boss used to say, “The most im­por­tant thing is to keep the most im­por­tant thing the most im­por­tant thing.” I grew up in mod­est cir­cum­stances, but all of our needs were taken care of. I was al­ways aware that it's not healthy to have too much.

Zita Cobb, 59, grew up as one of seven chil­dren in a home with no elec­tric­ity or run­ning wa­ter. Af­ter study­ing busi­ness in Ot­tawa, she be­came the chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer of the tech­nol­ogy firm JDS Fi­tel. She left that com­pany in 2001, sell­ing her shares worth 69 mil­lion US dol­lars. Then she spent four years sail­ing around the world be­fore re­turn­ing to Fogo Is­land and es­tab­lish­ing the Shore­fast Foun­da­tion.

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