Ben Ploughman of Port au Choix on the Great Northern is a self-taught folk artist that has made his mark on the industry. His unique pieces are made partly from recycled lobster trap laths that showcase individual hand-carved characters depicting an authentic story of the way of living in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. Much of his work focuses on the fishery, stemming from the collapse of the Atlantic cod fish with a moratorium in 1992. In fact, when I met Ben he was speaking with visitors about the five fish he had drying on a flake outside his studio.
Ploughman’s work challenges the mind of locals, politicians and those that are not from here about big policy matters and critical events such as the impact of the cod fishery collapse, rural population decline and a shift towards an economy based on oil and what that could mean for the outports.
I’ve seen Ben’s work even depicted on the walls of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans office suite in Ottawa at the DFO building when the All-Party Committee on Northern Shrimp met with Minister Shea in May. He had told me those were some of his earlier works, when Provincial MHA and Tourism Minister Chuck Furey worked with Federal Fisheries Minister Brian Tobin to showcase artwork by artists from Newfoundland & Labrador. There are several works by other artists displayed on the walls of DFO, but it does my heart good to know there are multiple pieces from the Great Northern Peninsula. His work is also found at a number of local businesses such as the Anchor Cafe, Port au Choix and Lightkeeper’s Cafe, St. Anthony and an exhibit at Ocean View Motel, Rocky Harbour in the heart of Gros Morne National Park.
Ben took the time to show me around his studio, a very inspiring place to work – to create. This artist is pretty visionary, not only in his art but what he has tried to do to advance the tourism industry. He created a Museum of Whales and Things. After several years of operations, the museum faced a multitude of challenges to ensure the right balance of his time for creating art but also to give time to those inquiring about the displays. After touring the Whales and Things Museum space it is clear, Ben has a significant opportunity to create a gallery in this space – highlighting his work over the years. He has so many pieces that are not on public display and therefore do not have the opportunity to be sold. A gallery creates more opportunities for him and local business to attract more tour groups and visitors, adding to tourism and regional product development.
In his studio, Ben creates a space for people to become involved and understand his folk art and the process. He has an easel set-up where people can be hands on and create their own story like “Got Me Moose by'” or “Habs win Cup” and “Leafs try their hand at Golf” (as you likely guessed, I’m a Habs fan! [Third Generation]).
The famed CBC “Land and Sea” came to Ben’s Studio to hear his story of his art process using recycled lobster laths. This gave Ben a broader platform to tell his story and showcase his art. He’s also hosted an Exhibit at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre. We talked about him finding a restaurant or gallery in the St. John’s marketplace, as well in Fort McMurray where those with an affinity to rural Newfoundland and Labrador congregate.
Additionally, Ben’s Studio is “HOME OF THE GOLDEN COD” – it’s story and the 125 lb piece with a $2.2 Million price tag is exclusively available for viewing in Port au Choix.
I encourage you to connect with Folk Artist Ben Ploughman, as he does commission pieces and ships his products anywhere around the world.
Ben J. Ploughman
P.O. Box 264
Port Au Choix, NL
Canada A0K 4C0
Web Site: http://www.bensstudio.ca
Ben Ploughman has many more ideas, such as a book explaining with images two decades of his folk art. I look forward to him pursuing them as he has exceptional potential to further elevate his artwork and tell the stories of Newfoundland and Labrador. His creative work of 20 years needs to be continuously told and a constant reminder of who we are and where we are going. Ben in his art has earned his place in the cultural history books of what is rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
Live Rural NL –
Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)