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The Story of the Golden Cod as Folk Artist Ben Ploughman Celebrates 20 Years

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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.

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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’s Studio
Ben J. Ploughman
P.O. Box 264
Port Au Choix, NL
Canada  A0K 4C0

Phone/Fax: (709)861-3280
Web Site: http://www.bensstudio.ca
E-mail: benjploughman@hotmail.com

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)

Red for Miles – Right Through the Fog!

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I spent time yesterday in the “Beauty Spot of the North” – Conche, NL to talk with residents and participate in the annual garden party tradition. After lunch and between the matinee, I did take some time to visit Fox Head, memorial airstrip, French Shore Interpretation Centre, wharf, tour the town, chat with residents and of course visit the red fishing rooms.

I think it was the first time in Conche where I experienced such fog, it seems the days are typically sunny in this vibrant and cultural centre. I did snap lots of photos from flowers to fishing nets to the colourful houses and stages, especially the red fishing rooms on Crouse Drive. Even through the fog, it feels like fisherman red for miles!

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The bright read gleams in the fog as the lobster traps and fishing boats are safely moored in the harbour.IMG_20150802_142826

These buildings have recently been painted, ensuring that they are around for the long haul. I had a great chat in the shed with Gerard and his cousin on my last visit about the fishery, the many challenges and the future. They are quite industrious as they were engulfed in building their own boat launch.

Our history, culture, tradition and our future is proudly on public display in the community of Conche. A true destination, over a 17.6 KM gravel road that is desperately in need of paving.

Fire wood, folk art and an forgotten Ford (maybe) are also part of the visual one will experience in this part of the Town.

I have many more images of the jelly bean row houses, the open art, music, dance, history and more that I will share in another post. Don’t worry about the fog, if you’re in Conche – you’ll still see red for miles!

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)

Quirpon will see population above 70 people for first time in years

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Quirpon was a prominent fishing community on the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula that has historic ties dating back to the 16th century migratory fishery. The French connection in the community name become known due to its resemblance to Le Kerpont near St. Malo, France. Locally, it is pronounced in the Anglicized form – “Karpoon”. I have visited Quirpon many times and had conversations over a cup of tea and sweets at Mabel and Bill Bartlett’s home.

Bill, in my view is the local historian. The wealth of knowledge, photographs and interest he has in the history, culture and mystery that surrounds Quirpon and the surrounding island and communities, formerly known as L’anse au Bauld, L’anse au Pidgeon, Fortune, Grassy Cove and Little Quirpon is worth a conversation or two. There are many unanswered questions and a real need for an archaeology dig to answer questions about the French and Inuit battles, the Vikings and the Land of First Contact. Earl Pilgrim wrote a book about this region and the mystery called the Island of Demons.

Bill’s local knowledge, photos, stories and local lore needs to be place on public display, maybe in the form of interpretation panels, murals or as an exhibit in the new Quirpon Community Hall, which recently undertook an impressive restoration project by community will and support. A special thank you to his daughter Marilyn, for never giving up on this cause and ensuring that Quirpon still has a public space for all residents, current and former, as well as visitors to come and enjoy. It was cooperation and support of everyone that helped see this piece of community infrastructure maintained. You are to be commended and I look forward to a time there in just over a week.

Quirpon is part of the Noddy Bay-Straitview-Hay Cove-L’Anse aux Meadows-Quirpon Come Home Year Celebration, which these five small communities see massive population growth for a week of celebration, as those with a connection to the communities come home. The 2011 census gives all five communities a total population of 289, which no doubt has declined in the past four years. It will be exciting to see the shift and influx of traffic, youth and activity in a community of just a few dozen.

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Despite a small population, Quirpon has opportunity.

  • The oldest house in the community was built in 1892 which belonged to William Henry Pynn, is a designated Registered Heritage Structure due to its historic architectural and cultural values.
  • Quirpon has beautiful walking trails
  • A working French Oven and resting area is available to the public.
  • Quirpon Lighthouse Inn, a four star accommodation at a light-keeper’s home built in 1922 where one can also experience kayaking, zodiac, iceberg & whale watching, boat tours and authentic rural Newfoundland and Labrador (http://www.linkumtours.com/wordpress/lighthouse-inns/quirpon-lighthouse-inn/).
  • Quirpon Radio was also founded by Wayne Bartlett & Cheryl McCarron – you can listen 24/7 online at http://www.radioquirpon.com/
  • The Viking RV Park is nestled on the road to Quirpon and just minutes from L’anse aux Meadows
  • Lloyd can be found in his workshop making model ships, motor boats, helicopters, snowmobiles and airplanes, while Bill has his miniature lighthouses and dories on display. Quirpon is a great place to pick up a piece of folk art
  • There is a photograph around every turn.

There is also prime iceberg viewing, a B&B being developed, local woodworkers and artists, the community hall, high speed Internet, vernacular architecture and amazing waterfront properties. I highly recommend adding Quirpon to your adventure on the Great Northern Peninsula and be sure to engage in dialogue with the local residents, you truly will be inspired.

Maybe you too will call this place home –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)

The Beauty of it All – when you do not rush

 
Lar’s Place, Conche, NL
 On February 12, 2011, I visited Conche, NL. It truly is one of the wonders along the French Shore. In my 25 years, I have never taken the time to visit this breath-taking Town outside of the summer season. It was long over due and certainly did not disappoint.

Dock w/Store house and iceflow

 Snow patches were present on the rolling hills and the harbour filled with ice, as I drove the winding roads. For the first time, I was not in any rush to get somewhere or meet someone – it was just perfect. I had taken time to explore the landscape, the houses and just get lost in the wonder that is quintessentially rural Newfoundland & Labrador.

Frontage of Lar's Place

 
I was taken aback by the brightly coloured fishing rooms, stores, stages and sheds that were bountiful along the harbour. It spoke the importance the fishery has played on this small Town throughout its rich and vibrant history. I stopped and took several photos of Lar’s Place (depicted in the photo above). The well maintained property had a mis-matched set of antlers tacked on the front. One half of the antlers boasting a much larger size than its counterpart, if that makes any sense at all. It was of interest, so I stopped for a little while. The weather vane was something I do not re-call ever seeing in any of my home communities in the Strait of Belle Isle. The door had a wooden cross, which was painted white and placed on the door, as well as, a perfectly cut island of Newfoundland to match. Conche has notable folk art, something I did not realize on other visits – from the crabs on outer buildings to cut-outs of birds on store roofs that from a far looked strikingly real.

Crab folk art on outbuilding, Conche, NL

 
My advice is to take some time to truly stop and smell the fresh air and all the hodgepodge that makes rural Newfoundland & Labrador a lifestyle. In a world of rush and go, we often miss the beauty that truly exists in our own backyards.
 
Live Rural NL –
Christopher C. Mitchelmore 
 
 

 

 

 

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