We began our Uncharted Canada tour at 4:45 am with one incident after another. We flew from Phoenix to Denver, then to Toronto. We headed for the gate to make our next flight from Toronto to St. John's Island only to discover we had to reclaim our luggage to go through Canadian customs, We made it with barely 15 minutes to spare when we discovered Walter did not have a ticket for the final leg of our journey. We had to go to Air Canada customer service only to be delayed because they could not find his reservation. When they finally did, we knew we could not get through security in time for our flight, but we ran anyway like two crazy people only to arrive at the gate as they were closing the door. No amount of pleading allowed us to board the flight. As with all airlines, 10 minutes before takeoff if you are not there your seats are given away.
Walter and I looked at each other and made our way to the Air Canada lounge to wait for the next flight to St. John's Island. We finally arrived at 2:30 am, and a driver met us at the airport to take us to our first hotel to begin our trip.
St. John's is lovely, and we stayed at the beautiful Sheraton Newfoundland with a garden conservatory, just beautiful. The amazing part of our brief stay was an opportunity to see whales playing in the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Spear. Afterwards, we made our way to the airport to board a chartered plane to Fogo Island.
Fogo Island is on the eastern edge of Newfoundland and is a huge jagged island made out of granite. It is home to 2,700 people mostly fisherman who find making a living as their ancestors did very difficult. Most of the residents never left the island even when the Canadian government threatened to pull all support. But then along came a woman by the name of Zeta Cobb. The rest of the blog is a tribute to her.
When we landed on what seemed like an abandoned airstrip and made our way to Fogo Island Inn, we were silenced by the poverty we viewed out of our limousine SUVs. Most of the homes, with the exception of a few larger homes, appeared to be original settler's homes built in the 1700s. But then, we made our way down a dirt road around several twists and turns and there facing the ocean was the most beautiful structure jetting out of rocks and tall grass, confronting us with its architectural splendor. It is then that we hear the story about how Zeta Cobb, a multimillionaire, used her funds along with the Canadian and Provincial government's to make Fogo Island and the neighboring Change Islands an international destination for the arts.
There is a lot to say about Zeta Cobb who grew up on Fogo Island, but I rather share with you what she did to save her dying community. She began by collaborating with another native of the island, Norway based internationally acclaimed architect Todd Saunders, to build four art studios. The studios are so different than the communities they are built in that they stick out from the typical island homes. Not only are they different architecturally, but they also represent the future of what is possible on the island. The concept is that artists of every genre are invited to apply for a fellowship to work in one of the studios to perfect their art. Every year approximately 2,000 artists worldwide apply for a fellowship but only four are permitted to study on the island for six to eight weeks.
However, the culminating project Zeta Cobb invested in is a The Fogo Island Inn that has 29 rooms all facing the ocean. It is a five-star hotel and ranked twelfth on a list of the finest hotels in the world. The art studios attract some of the most talented artists in the world who act as ambassadors for Fogo Island. And now, the Inn is attracting a growing number of tourists bringing much-needed revenue to the island. The amazing endnote is that all money obtained from these venues is turned over to the governing board, The Fogo Island Arts Corporation. I am in awe of this project. We walked the Island today to visit the art studios and found these magnificent structures nestles in communities that look like they will become extinct any moment but now are turning into vibrant communities attracting international tourism.