Economic development the underlying theme of InSitu art exhibits

The importance of economic vitality and economic development for rural communities was a strong underlying theme in an evening of tribute to the community of Barachois on August 5, 2018, featuring the documentary Barachois In Situ (2016 edition). Serving also to present the artists participating in the 2018 Barachois InSitu, CEDEC hosted this event in partnership with Vaste et Vagues to engage the English-speaking community in this cultural event and to keep economic development top of mind as culture and heritage tourism activities are created.

The video showcased the 2016 edition of Barachois InSitu and gave each of the artists a chance to share their artistic direction.

Marc Chicoine, originally from nearby Belle-Anse, turned the area’s dilapidated wharf into a bed structure representing the sleepy lethargic development within the region with the erosion synonymous with a crumbling economy.

By pouring salt in the rotting cracks of the wharf boards, Chicoine’s symbolic gesture is his attempt to preserve the past much like how ‘salting’ had been done in the cod fishing industry in years gone by. “I integrated it into my wharf because that wharf is the last one that remains in this place – and this place is a victim of erosion. I play with this duality between the materials of the eroding wharf but I added salt in a poetic way to preserve it.”

“I can recall, say about 1954, I counted about 50 or more boats that would come here in an afternoon. It is unbelievable. The day came when we had nothing left. It’s really sad. Stores began to close. People left. They were obliged to go to the city. But there is a time when we were bigger than Gaspé. Our village, Barachois, was three times bigger than the city of Gaspé.”

Harris Thompson
Owner of Robin’s General Store

Harris Thompson, owner of Robin’s General Store in Barachois explains, “I can recall, say about 1954, I counted about 50 or more boats that would come here in an afternoon. It is unbelievable. The day came when we had nothing left. It’s really sad. Stores began to close. People left. They were obliged to go to the city. But there is a time when we were bigger than Gaspé. Our village, Barachois, was three times bigger than the city of Gaspé.”

The community’s population of 4000 has since dwindled to approximately 500.

For Natalie Chicoine, a local artist in the 2018 edition of InSitu, her work is symbolic of important elements near and dear to her.  She made use of old lobster traps, retired along with her father, and gave them new life in her exhibit as she looks back on how old ways have given way to new trapping technology. With her art piece taking on the form of a longhouse, to celebrate her Micmac heritage, she also nods to the old fishing wharves that are no longer in use.

In her presentation to the participants, she expressed emotional sadness with the decline of the industry, and the fact that many young people her age have been forced to leave to find work.

But don’t let the melancholic undertone of the artists’ work deceive you. Barachois InSitu represents great optimism within the community and renewed efforts to revitalize the local economy. Closing on a highnote, Harris Thompson perhaps said it best: “Yes, that’s what I see for the future.  A beautiful future here. It might take ten years, fifteen years, twenty years, but it’s certain it will come.”

The documentary is being shown around North America at various film festivals and is being well received.

CEDEC is a partner of Barachois InSitu and is working with stakeholders and partners such as Vaste et Vagues in Barachois to lead the community and increase engagement in economic development opportunities. To learn more about this work, visit CEDEC Revitalization.