The idea of reinventing a fading economy through local art and culture is neither new nor novel. It swirls around every dying main street across America now dotted by galleries and antique stores. It permeates every factory space retrofitted for loft apartments or artist collabs or maker fairs. Its Brooklyn, for God’s sake.
But no one has taken this idea as far — and as far away — as the Fogo Island Inn. For centuries, literally everyone on the tiny Canadian Fogo Island made their living off fishing local waters. It’s way too cold to grow much of anything and too far away to do much else. But commercial fishing and disadvantageous maritime laws crushed the family fishing operations, and the economy plummeted.
Until 10 years ago. A brilliant philanthropist had the idea to start retraining local craftsmen as upscale artisans. Boat makers started building bespoke furniture. The womenfolk who quilt, knit and rug hook started taking museum commissions. And most importantly, the island opened an architectural gem of a destination hotel to bring in designers and wealthy shoppers to make the whole system work.
I spent my 50th birthday at the Fogo Island Inn, taking classes in rug hooking and learning about the island’s vision to reinvent itself in art and design. For you makers out there, it’s a great case-study and even better destination. Can’t make trip that far? Stop in Make-Modern to see some of the exquisite studio furniture I brought back.
Fogo sits off the northern coast of New Foundland, itself an island off the coast of Canada. More information at www.FogoIslandInn.ca