A picture is worth a thousand words. The image of crashing waves, a rugged coastline and a stagehead reaching out over the water all say “home” to many Newfoundlanders. This is how teacher and professional artist, David Trainor, is bringing our province’s history and culture to life for his students.
Mr. Trainor graduated from the Faculty of Education with a master of education in 2013 and is currently teaching art at Ascension Collegiate in Bay Roberts. During his degree program, his research focused on the ocean-human interaction and how the ocean has shaped the cultural identity of rural Newfoundlanders through his project titled, “From Stagehead to Saltbox House: A Cultural Connection through Art.”
He believes that cultural identity is a working tool for students who want to create art. “The cartography for a life in teaching and learning is embedded within a history of its people,” said Mr. Trainor. “This personal adherence to a place is the setting upon which I will build the perspective model for learning and teaching within a visual arts classroom.”
His research was directed toward the saltbox house, the stage and stagehead structures that the fishermen, women and children grew up around in rural communities on the island portion of Newfoundland. The main communities he focused on were Port Kirwan, Southern Shore; Tilton, Conception Bay North and Tilting, Fogo Island.
In addition to being an educator, Mr. Trainor is also a very talented, professional artist. He began his love affair with the arts under the tutelage of Don Wright in the 1960s. Mr. Wright introduced Mr. Trainor to the visual and technical literacy on fine arts through the use of graphite, charcoal, watercolour and relief printmaking. In the 1980s, he met the multi-talented painter, potter and printmaker, Sid Butt. Mr. Butt became his mentor, confidant and closest friend. It was under this mentorship that he was able to truly refine his skills for the craft. He reconnected with his rural surroundings and regained a belief in the value of his heritage.
The links between Newfoundland “ocean” culture, teaching and art are very important to Mr. Trainor. “While having grown up in the, now abating, culture of a Newfoundland fishing community, I see what were once iconic structures, the saltbox house, stage and stagehead, disappear from the landscape of our province,” said Mr. Trainor. “I want to enliven within my students the importance of these basic structures that supported a lifestyle that existed for five centuries. Within the framework of my paper, the visuals are the connectors to cultural identity.”
Mr. Trainor’s research led him to discover the work of Dr. Gerald Pocius, who lived in and wrote about a local community, in his book A Place to Belong: Community Order and Everyday Space in Calvert. This book, about a people coming up from the sea to live in a community, awakened within him a sense of pride and enlightenment about how art could also enmesh the images of students within the places they call home.
Mr. Trainor’s hope is to preserve the now dwindling Newfoundland fishing culture for his current and future students through art. His own artwork can be viewed and purchased at The Potter’s Mill in Carbonear.