To understand Fogo Island, you have to understand what this little artist studio sitting all alone on the rocky shores really means. Zita Cobb grew up on the island, but spent many years Away (as Newfoundlanders would say) where she enjoyed a successful career. In 2001 though she decided to dedicate her life to philanthropic efforts back on her home island. Zita built the Fogo Island Inn, but the hotel is actually part of something much larger.
Zita’s Shorefast Foundation believes that social engagement and the communities themselves can be nurtured and encouraged to stimulate local economies. There is an inherent value in any given place, but the key is finding and nurturing that value, the cultural heritage as it were. One way they’re working on that is through their artists-in-residence program. Building 4 wonderfully unique studios, artists from around the world apply to spend a few months on the island, creating new work and engaging with the local community. In a belief that the arts can have an amazing affect on a community, it seems that after only a few years that concept has been proven true.
Zita’s main goal is to save her home island and other rural communities like it around the world. Rural places have value and this value can be reclaimed and made relevant for the 21st century. Instead of lamenting the loss of small towns and villages and the loss of a way of life, it is possible to not only halt that loss of cultural capital, but usher in a new age for these communities - a rebirth of hope, optimism and creativity.
I love all of these messages and in particular, I love how the arts are leading this economic change on Fogo. It’s not just a nice idea either, just take a quick look around and you’ll see instantly not a dying series of communities, but a populace that is excited for what the future holds.
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