The integrity of art in NL culture

in Arts & Culture/Op Ed by

It’s hard sometimes in art to not have overlapping themes.

Common artistic tendencies may even be more evident through Newfoundland and Labrador, as we tend to celebrate our traditions through creative pieces.

Commonalitues are more evident in sellable minute souvenirs form. As you wander the streets of downtown St. John’s each storefront has a miniature form of Jelly Bean Row for sale.

From mummer statues to bottles of screech to placards stating “stay where you’re at til I comes where yer to.” – it’s obvious that we enjoy sharing our cultural practices through art.

As Newfoundlanders we are a bit constrained by our reoccurring themes and that’s expected from any such a place. It’s what you do with those pieces of Newfoundland that can allow your art to be reshaped into something unique.

What’s shown on NTV will inevitably be showcased on CBC, and the Telegram will have a write up. Meanwhile, VOCM had a early morning blurb on the same topic.

It doesn’t mean to say these venues don’t have their own personal news stories, it just means our land is a smaller place to cover compared to the rest of the world.

Though stories and art themes overlap, it’s something we can be so proud to share.

St. John’s has a vibrant art scene that includes musicians, writers, and traditional artists- a scene that is rampant and always producing and booming.


Art exhibit at The Rooms by Philippa Jones

While Corner Brook’s literary festivals and theatrical talent are abundant.

On another note, social media has highlighted areas of great craftwork from all over Newfoundland and Labrador: clothing design, jewelry creation, needlework and graphic design, to name a few.

The province is full of many venues and people who have developed their own pieces, some with a lot of cultural significance, or sometimes, none at all. Somewhere there’s a line that connecting all those pieces together simply because we are all Newfoundlanders.

The metaphorical connection is not as obvious as purposeful collaborations.


In St. John’s alone those projects are always in full view: Jumping Bean hangs many photos and art pieces to share the love, the Rocket hosts open mic, Broken Books has readings and the many clothing stores and designers sometimes work together to showcase their many pieces and share talent.

As much as we share, it’s important to not use someone’s message as your own. To not take another person’s hard work and make it your own. Do not claim a recreation of an individual piece without acknowledgment. Though artists might gain perspective and new ideas during a collaborative process, when working individually it’s important to recognize an original piece and not try to claim it as your own.

This situation becomes sticky since Newfoundland is a small space to cover and we all have inherent influences that are similar. As stated above, news outlets tend to cover a lot of the same material but they are clearly not knock offs of one another.

Art is not a pyramid scheme to which you can branch off and start your own exact replica of a piece. You have to make a statement that’s original with some colliding aspects of your influencers and inspiration.

It would be odd if a comedian worked directly with Matt Wright, and then a week later stood on stage with a guitar in hand delivering punchlines about snow plows. Of course one could argue that they came up with the idea himself, but did they really? Make your own stage, your own shows, your own jokes. Be a real artist.

If you find yourself involved in someone else’s process and you want to branch out on your own, consider a whole other message, a whole other colour, a whole other piece. Take your Jelly Bean Row to the next level and make it your own.


Recently the famous Instagram account @F—-Jerry came under attack for making money off other people’s jokes and never crediting them or asking permission for their material. The worst part, he never produced ANY of his own work but rode the coattails of everyone else.  A similar attitude could be put forth with all pending collaboration. All artwork or pieces should be tagged, linked and credited before publication of display to ensure original content is given proper recognition. I have put credit in separate pages and forgot tags in social media, and it was upsetting for the owners of that work.

Simply put: art’s main purpose is to be different on some level and though your geography and culture will seep into the seams of your work, make SURE your piece is yours and yours alone before you stamp your name onto it. Newfoundland and Labrador will intertwine in all aspects of pieces that come from it’s residents, but have you simply walked by a store front and reprinted a drawing and claimed it as your own?

Don’t be a @F—-Jerry, stop voting. Be an individual and celebrate other’s work, alongside your own.


Painted Artwork by Dane Gill of Gander

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