Squish Studio, Fogo Island, NL - photo by Karen Anderson

Hiking the trails of the Fogo Island Arts’ Studios

Todd Saunders of Saunders Architecture
Todd Saunders, Architect

If you hike to the four Fogo Island Arts’ Studios in one day, you’ve walked 10,000 steps. The kind and helpful Todd Saunders, designer of the studios and umpteen other unforgettable contemporary architecture structures around the globe, shares this encouraging fact with us after we tell him that’s what we’re off to do on this fine day on Fogo Island, NL.

We met Saunders on the trail down from the Fogo Island Inn to the main road. I smiled and said, thank you for imagining this place, when I recognized him. He stopped to chat a bit and we learned he’s building five homes at Ghost Lake, Alberta not far from our home in Calgary for a project called Carraig Ridge.

Despite being ranked in the Top 100, 10 or 5 contemporary architects in the world, depending on the source, Saunders says all he cares about is working with kind, nice people. When he finds out that I am in food tourism, he pitches the idea of collaborating for a pop up dinner at Carraig Ridge. Needless to say, I’ll be following up on that idea.

Today, though, we leave behind his life altering achievement, Fogo Island Inn, and head to the four International Arts Studios he designed for Fogo Island Arts’ artists in residence program.

As a little background, “Fogo Island Arts is a residency-based contemporary art venue for artists, filmmakers, writers, musicians, curators, designers, and thinkers from around the world.”

Come on along and you’ll see what make Saunders’ designs for this pop with their purpose.

Squish Studio, Fogo Island Arts - photo by Karen Anderson
Squish Studio, Fogo Island Arts

Squish Studio

We decide to tour the studios east to west so we head to the village of Tilting and Squish Studio first.

Parking in the lot at Sandy Cove Beach we take the East Turpin Trail to get to Squish. Our step count will be higher going this route and the path is much more interesting. It cuts a swath past the remains of the early Irish settler’s alder fenced gardens and climbs up over hill, dell and rock from the sandy cove along the craggy coast. This is reward enough. Then we see Squish in the distance.

We stand and appreciate it’s white against the sea of blue backdrop from afar before continuing on up to peak in the windows. There’s no sign of life and we wonder what it must be like to set up one’s creative HQ here.

I can see how the form of Squish studio imitates the icebergs that drift down from Greenland along the Labrador Flow each April and May. It must be gob-smacking to see THAT but today I am pretty happy with the warm breeze that gently guides us back to our car and onto the next stop in Joe Batt’s Arm, the Long Studio.

Long Studio, Fogo Island Arts - photo by Karen Anderson
Long Studio, Fogo Island Arts

Long Studio

Long Studio was the first of the studios built. It’s like a long fishing shed. It doesn’t look like much from the side but peer into it from the entrance and the picture it frames of the ever-changing ocean focuses the eye and hopefully the artist within.

The trek here is an easy stroll from the Joe Batt’s Arm Fish Coop past a few gardens and small coves. Though a short walk, in case you tire or just want to sit a spell, there’s a number of benches to soak up the scenery. Most of the benches face Fogo Island Inn, which certainly bares contemplation. Shoal Bay and Tower Studio were next up so we kept moving.

Tower Studio, Fogo Island Arts - photo by Karen Anderson
Tower Studio, Fogo Island Arts

Tower Studio

The approach to Tower Studio is a 500-metre-long boardwalk heading straight for it across a boggy moor. I may have dilly-dallied a wee bit here. My eyes wondered to wildflowers, berries and stunted trees. But, the breeze we’d enjoyed earlier started to pick up speed. It turned into a wind that whipped us around the building and back to the cozy comfort of the car.

I was left curious about the interior but loved the stunning visual. It really reminded me of an old-fashioned viewfinder. This form surely meets the function for the artists that come to focus on their work for a while.

Bridge Studio, Fogo Island Arts - photo by Karen Anderson
Bridge Studio, Fogo Island Arts – photo by Karen Anderson

Bridge Studio

The last studio, Bridge Studio, is meant for writers. We drove to Deep Harbour and parked in the Good Shepard Church lot. The trail is a climb that begins up a wooden stair case under an arched sign naming the path as Courting Trail. It seems if the person you are interested in can make it up these stairs, they’ve definitely proven themselves fit for life.

The artists that get assigned to Bridge Studio will leave Fogo fitter than when they arrived. It’s a steep climb up to the glacial pond where it is situated. Inside the studio, a desk at a massive lone window dominates. In August there’s blueberries as reward along the way.

Writers living and working out of their homes, that’s most of us, can find any number of ways to procrastinate. A stack of dirty dishes, a pile of laundry, a dog to walk, phone calls to make, soup to simmer, emails and social media updates – they all rank higher than actually anchoring one’s butt in the chair to write. The appeal of this stark space bereft of distraction is immense.

And there you have it. Bonuses along the way?

Finding acclaimed contemporary artist Bruce Pashak’s studio at the foot of the Bridge Studio trail.

  • Scooting over to Fogo, the town, for lunch at Bang Belly with its fresh bright décor and food.

Staying a little longer in Fogo, the town, to hike up Brimstone Trail and lay claim to visiting one of the four corners of the earth – according to the Flat Earth Society.

Discovering The Old Salt Box Co. and Diane’s Units businesses for rentals of wonderfully situated cabins and efficiencies around the island.

Popping into the Woodshop on Fogo Island to appreciate the craftsmanship.

And, in general, enjoying all these trails, all day long, while rarely running into more than one or two people. I hope you’ve enjoyed this and the posts on St. John’s Signal Hill and Newman Sound Coastal Trail. Up next is Skerwink Trail on Bonavista Peninsula and Elliston’s Puffin Walk.

Note: This is NOT a sponsored post. My travel to Fogo Island was independent. All photos and words are my own.


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