“I co-signed a loan for a couple of guys. They were going to start a restaurant in the Cove. It didn’t work, they buggered off, and I ended up with a mortgage on a building at the end of the Earth.”
“What do you do with a building at the end of the Earth? You start thinking what it’s got going for it. And the major thing the original building had was an incredible view of the North Atlantic Ocean. I thought visual artists would love the place.”
In the late 1980s James was in Toronto where he saw a painting by Nancy Kembry entitled Still Life: Fragmentation. He was so haunted by it that he invited Nancy to visit Newfoundland. Nancy arrived the following year with Marlowe, Milkweed and Ken (dog, cat and husband).
Ken and Nancy’s immediate enthusiasm for the craggy coast of Pouch Cove and the admittedly extremely rough facilities on offer prompted her to write about the place in an independent artists newsletter in New York and it wasn’t long before he was inundated with requests to visit.
“I was not even aware of residency programs when I started. As a consequence the program slowly evolved and grew as I figured out what I was supposed to be doing.” “First there were applications, slides, letters of recommendation etc. and no cost to the artist at all.” Then an application fee and a small occupancy fee was initiated but it all involved too much paperwork and the rejection of three artists for every one that could be hosted.”
“Over time the formula that I found worked best was an invitation-only system as it changed the dynamic. No rejections and disappointment, only surprise and delight at being chosen.” “The request of a the donation of a mutually acceptable work of art from the artist allows me to keep the place operating.”
“The program changed my life and my family’s life in so many ways. Not only introducing us to some fabulous people and wonderful art, we have made lifelong connections with individuals who became our best friends.” “With so many artists being hosted over decades we cannot keep track of them all, but are always delighted when we come across them in our travels.”
Baird operated first from a small property on the Main road in the Cove, (which is now his home), then added a second operation in Corner Brook on Newfoundland’s west coast, and in 2003 purchased the former Pouch Cove Elementary school at 14 Gruchy’s Hill in Pouch Cove when the denominational school system was being dismantled in the province.
In 2019 the Foundation entirely renovated the elementary school, to provide eight brand new live/work studios to artists.