Leadership in Place

December 13, 2023
Shorefast’s CEO & Founder, Zita Cobb, on the importance of local leadership in the places we live. 
5-minute video excerpt of Zita Cobb’s Thomas d’Aquino Leadership Lecture, November, 2023

“Leaders are the deepest believers”  

In November 2023, Zita Cobb, CEO & Founder of Shorefast and Innkeeper of Fogo Island Inn, took centre stage to deliver the prestigious Thomas d’Aquino Lecture on Leadership. This two-part lecture series was hosted at the iconic National Art Gallery of Canada and the Ivey Business School in London, Ontario. 

The following is an excerpt of her speech with a focus on growing the capacity of place leadership. 

“Canadian Businesswoman and social entrepreneur Zita Cobb talks leadership” – Ottawa Business Journal 

The Thomas d’Aquino Lecture on Leadership 

Andria Hickey joins Shorefast and Fogo Island Arts as Head of Programs

December 13, 2023
International curator Andria Hickey has been appointed Head of Programs at Shorefast. Hickey will oversee the holistic direction of Shorefast’s interdisciplinary programs, including Fogo Island Arts.

Born and raised in St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada, Hickey is a long-standing friend of Shorefast. Alongside her work with Fogo Island Arts, Hickey’s new role will encompass oversight of Shorefast’s robust arts program and environmental stewardship initiatives, as well as heritage sites and programs designed to center place, culture, and community.

Fogo Island Arts was established in 2008 with the belief that art and artists are visionaries that continue to bring new perspectives to the urgent issues of our time. The prestigious exhibition and residency program has welcomed a wide range of international artists, curators, and thinkers including Abbas Akhavan, Liam Gillick, Candice Hopkins, Brian Jungen, Kablusiak, Janice Kerbel, Sharon Lockhart, Ken Lum, Fadzai Veronica Muchemwa, Silke Otto-Knapp, and Jeremy Shaw, among many others.

Hickey joins Shorefast from The Shed in New York, the multidisciplinary arts centre where she led the visual arts program. Previously, she was a global Senior Director and Curator at Pace Gallery, where she established a new curatorial team and initiated the live arts program, Pace Live. During her tenure she curated numerous exhibitions such as monographic surveys of Jo Baer, Wifredo Lam, and Agnes Martin, alongside major thematic exhibitions.

Hickey says, “Fogo Island is an incredibly special place, geographically, culturally, and artistically. I am inspired by Shorefast and Fogo Island as an example of community resilience that is both holding on and reaching out to center new forms of cultural exchange, environmental sustainability, and economic development. The possibility of a shared dialogue across cultures, generations, and places is a vital part of forging a new vision for the future of our planet. The ability to offer time and space for artists, curators, writers, scientists, and other practitioners to create and connect is needed now more than ever. It is a great privilege to return to eastern Canada to begin this unique position, and I look forward to meaningful collaboration with artists, communities and colleagues on Fogo Island, and beyond.”

Zita Cobb, Co-founder of Shorefast, said: “Andria brings broad experience in program leadership and strategic planning to Fogo Island, as well as an esteemed curatorial career focused on global contemporary art. Her commitment to moving culture in new directions is deeply valuable to Shorefast’s work in community economic development.”

Read the Press Release

Zita Cobb delivers the Keynote at the Evergreen Conference

November 7, 2023
Shorefast’s CEO joined thought leaders, community members, private and public sector innovators, and city builders from across the country to talk about place as key to a resilient and connected future.

Place holds all the answers.”

– Zita Cobb, Shorefast CEO & Founder   

In mid-October Zita Cobb, Shorefast’s CEO & Founder, delivered the keynote address at the annual Evergreen Conference. Held at the Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto, the conference brings together thought leaders, community members, private and public sector innovators, and city builders from across the country who value place as key to a resilient and connected future. 

At Shorefast, we believe that place holds all our relationships. When we practice economic development that takes into consideration the context of where we live – the geographic and human assets in each place – we set ourselves up for a stronger economic foundation that can successfully modulate the ecological, economic, and social needs of a community. 

During her keynote, Zita reminded the crowd that “the opportunity for Canada is to figure out how we work at many scales.” Taking the local as our starting point, Shorefast’s work is to demonstrate how the proper tools and resources can enable other entrepreneurial communities to drive economic momentum and build toward the future they want.

Our national economy is strongest when it works toward the whole. Finding ways to stitch local economies into the national framework is central to what we do.

Read the Press Release

Cultural Innovation: A Community Talk with Architect Todd Saunders

August 24, 2023

Design and architecture can be used to stimulate innovation and give centuries-old knowledge, traditions, and culture an economic foundation.

In early June, Todd Saunders, the Newfoundland-born, Norway-based architect behind Fogo Island Inn and the four artist studios on Fogo Island, hosted a talk for community members and visitors at Shorefast’s historic Orange Lodge building.  

Tracing the trajectory of his career, Todd provided context and advice for people at the beginning of their careers and offered his thoughts on the future of architecture – citing his belief in a hybrid approach that mixes different elements together, with the caveat that “You make great architecture when you know a place.”   

Originally tasked with a mandate to build Fogo Island Inn as demonstrative of “what has been learned from 400 years of clinging to this rock,” Todd shared insights alongside Shorefast CEO & Founder and Fogo Island Inn Innkeeper, Zita Cobb, about how leaning into the specificity of a place can be the very way that we connect the local economy to the global market.  

“Culture is a living thing. If it doesn’t innovate it dies,” Zita remarked. Through cultural innovation we can find ways to illuminate the specificity of our place and carry it forward in ways that support dignified and meaningful employment, and a greater sense of belonging.  

The following is an excerpt from a conversation between Zita Cobb and Todd Saunders on the 10th anniversary of Fogo Island Inn, shortly after the on-island community event.  

Food for Thought: Reinforcing our local economy through an appreciation of our foodways

May 17, 2023

“Eating is an agricultural act.”

— Wendell Berry, American Farmer, Writer, Philosopher. 

Photo credit: Paddy Barry

Food is so much more than sustenance. What we eat, grow, forage, and fish tells us about the culture, environment, and history of a place. Understanding and celebrating our local foodways is another avenue to build stronger relationships between people and place and reinforce the importance of local growing and sourcing to our economy.

Our newly launched Foodways Program on Fogo Island is designed to unite and build on the many food-related initiatives that have animated our work over the years with the goal of creating a more sustainable food system on Fogo Island that can be a contagious example for other rural and remote communities.

The following is a sampling of some of the past, current, and ongoing initiatives that Shorefast has pursued to support a deeper connection to place through food:

Shorefast and Foodways 

Fogo Island Inn 

Ten years ago, Shorefast opened Fogo Island Inn with the intention to activate the cultural heritage and natural assets of the place, including our local foodways. From the Inn’s kitchen, we brought forward contemporary ways of using local ingredients, broadened what can be grown on the island, and increased the focus on local sourcing to support the creation of a widening food entrepreneur landscape on Fogo Island. 

One such example of a new-to-the-island vegetable is fennel. Having asked local growers to cultivate fennel, initially for use in dishes at the Inn, we see its use within our new restaurant–The Storehouse—as an important gateway to sharing ways to cook with this vegetable, as well as other nutrient-rich ingredients that can be found on Fogo Island.  

Photo credit: Andrea O’Brian 

Fogo Island Fish

After opening the Inn, we also turned our thinking to our primary industry, the fishery, and partnered with the Fogo Island Co-operative Society, which operates three seafood processing plants on the island, to start a micro-enterprise called Fogo Island Fish, designed to develop markets for high quality hand-lined Cod. The practice of handlining involves no by-catch, and while it is labour intensive, we pay fishers double the market rate for cod caught by gill-nets. Fogo Island Fish currently sells wholesale to several fine-dining restaurants across Canada.  

Seaweed Cultivation 

In 2021, Shorefast launched an R&D pilot in collaboration with the Fogo Island Co-Operative Society to explore the commercial viability of seaweed farming. As a sustainable, plant based nutritional food that has significant environmental benefits and economic potential, seaweed cultivation could help diversify our island’s economy, with implications for replicability throughout Atlantic Canada. 


Historically, foraging for wild berries allowed Fogo Islanders to survive in this sub-arctic landscape. People foraged and ate partridgeberries, blueberries, marshberries, and bakeapples. The two dozen or so other berries were, not so long ago, collectively called ‘poison berries’ as a precaution from parents to children. Of course, we now understand a lot more about the berry species we share our landscape with, and that knowledge is often enriched by visiting experts invited by Shorefast who share even more. One such expert was able to expand our understanding not only of the other (not poison but very edible!) berries but also some of the mushrooms and herbs that were never previously understood as food. 

Photo credit: Joe Ip

Medicinal Benefits 

The arrival of Dr. John Weber, a Shorefast academic in-residence and a professor at Memorial University, fondly known as the “Berry Man,” helped us understand that blueberry leaves contain even more antioxidants than the noble berry itself. As we spend more time understanding the rich bounty in front of us, we are re-discovering valuable knowledge.  


In 2010, Shorefast commissioned Todd Boland of the Botanical Gardens in St. Johns, NL, to produce a Fogo Island wildflower guide book. The goal was to highlight the wide range of plant life on the island with a particular focus on edibles and traditional uses. This important work laid the foundation to better understand the land under our feet – land that Captain Wadham famously said Newfoundlanders, with their over-focus on the sea, had for too long regarded as a “conveniently-anchored ship.” 

Food Circles 

Adapted from the notion of sharing built into our traditional song circles, Shorefast has been bringing people together to share place-specific growing and cooking learnings and stories. Past panelists include Mitchell Davis, James Beard Foundation, and Lori McCarthy, a long-time Shorefast partner and Newfoundland & Labrador foodways expert.  

Food Circle at Big Space
Mitchell Davis, James Beard Foundation, hosts a food circle on Fogo Island

Learn More about our Foodways Program

Know your neighbours, know yourself,” a conversation between Zita Cobb & Michael Bungay Stanier.

May 12, 2023

Recently, Shorefast’s founder & CEO, Zita Cobb, joined Michael Bungay Stanier on his podcast MBS Works to read two pages from one of her favourite books—The Third Pillar —and talk about the importance of community, economic dignity, and finding the right people to help create real change.

Recently, Shorefast’s founder & CEO, Zita Cobb, joined Michael Bungay Stanier on his podcast MBS Works to read two pages from one of her favourite books—The Third Pillar —and talk about the importance of community, economic dignity, and finding the right people to help create real change.  

Written by Raghuram Rajan, The Third Pillar, was foundational to the creation of Shorefast’s first national initiative – a Community Economies Pilot that focused on discovering the key levers and interventions to strengthen local economies.  

“If we can put community at the centre of the economy, there’s a seat for everyone to be there.” -Zita Cobb 

Listen to the full conversation here: 

Know Your Neighbours, Know Yourself: Zita Cobb [reads] ‘The Third Pillar’ » Michael Bungay Stanier (MBS)

Fogo Island’s Annual Scholarship Program

October 14, 2022

Initiated in 2004 as one of Shorefast’s inaugural programs, the Fogo Island Annual Scholarship provides financial support for all eligible Fogo Island Central Academy graduates who are pursuing any form of post-secondary education or training (a portion of funds raised are sent to A.R Scammell school on Change Islands proportional to student population). The Scholarship program is funded through the generosity of local community members, local businesses, and donors who span Canada more broadly. All funds raised are divided evenly among applicants.

There is no formal application process for the scholarship. Instead, to receive their scholarship grant funds, we simply ask the students to provide us their thoughts on issues relevant to our community by composing a short, opinion-based essay, recording a video response, or creating an art piece. It’s a key way we receive feedback from our youth, and it’s a yearly highlight for us to read and experience their thoughts and ideas.

This year graduates were asked to respond to any one of these four questions:

What can we learn from the resiliency Fogo Islanders have shown in the past (such as facing the cod moratorium and resisting resettlement) and how can that help us during times of uncertainty in the present (such as the pandemic and climate change)?

What actions can Fogo Islanders take to create an inclusive community where everyone can be their authentic selves?

Reflect on what it means to be a Fogo Islander. How can we preserve who we are as we continue to open up to the world?

Envision the main street of your community on Fogo Island in the year 2050. What does it look like? How is it different than it is in 2022, and why are those changes important?

With input from the graduates, we mounted an exhibition of their essays and art pieces at the Punt Premises, and we invited the students, their families, and their friends to an opening celebration. It was a great way to share the students’ ideas with the wider community and applaud their accomplishments. 

Quotations from essays are displayed alongside art pieces throughout the outbuildings of the Premises, and the community was invited to come down and read what our young people have to say.

Congratulations to all our graduates. We can’t wait to see where your studies and life experiences take you!

We’re very grateful to the many other businesses and individuals that contribute funds and prizes to the scholarship which allow us to grow the pool of grant money available to our students. The scholarship is a true community effortTo learn more about how you can contribute to the Fogo Island Annual Scholarship program please contact donations@shorefast.org

Liam Gillick unveils a Weather Station on Fogo Island

July 21, 2022

In October 2022, renowned contemporary artist Liam Gillick launched a weather station on Fogo Island in partnership with the National Gallery of Canada and Fogo Island Arts.

Titled, A Variability Quantifier2022, and known colloquially as The Fogo Island Red Weather Station, Gillick’s artwork forms part of a larger collaborative project that unites 28 art organizations around the world through the World Weather Network (WWN). The constellation of geographically-diverse ‘weather stations’ are responding to the climate crisis through the eyes of artists, writers, and communities by sharing observations, stories, reflections and images about their local weather, creating an archipelago of voices and viewpoints. Spanning Nigeria to Iceland to New York, the coalition is bringing increased attention to the importance of artists and writers to the dialogue around climate change

Listen to Liam Gillick on CBC’s the Q talking about art, Fogo Island, and a weather station to the global climate crisis

Listen Here

Designed with advice from the Fogo Island community, Gillick’s weather station takes its structural cues from traditional outport fishing stages found throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. The structure is a framework for scientists and local community members to add meteorological instruments to  measure and track local weather and monitor changes connected to an increasing experience of the climate crisis, including changes to the annual passage of icebergs in ‘Iceberg Alley.’ The station will serve as a location for community gathering, creative place-making, education and discussion, as well as a functional weather station.

For Gillick, The Fogo Island Red Weather Station is a continuation of his interest in understanding the origins of climate science and his long-standing appreciation of Fogo Island as a compelling geographic location. For Fogo Islanders, who have a distinct and embodied relationship with weather, this artwork is a reminder of the significant imprint weather has made on the cultural and physical landscape of Fogo Island and the influence it will continue to exert on our evolving modern outport. 

The artwork is being acquired by  the National Gallery of Canada as part of its National Outreach Initiative in which artworks from the collection are sited and maintained at localities across the country. It will be displayed on the island through to October 2026.

Continue scrolling to read more about weather’s influence on Fogo Island and art’s role in a healthy economy. 

Understanding Life in the Pathway of the Labrador Current

By selecting Fogo Island as one of the 28 locations that will host a weather station, the World Weather Network is considering the variety of climates and topographies that dynamically make up our world and each region’s insights into how weather changes will play a determining role in our shared futures. In many of these singular locations, weather is understood acutely by the communities that live there. This contrasts with more densely populated regions where people generally live in more stable climates and interact with the weather in a much more static sense: by checking the internet for updates.

On Fogo Island our relationship to our distinct environment can be viewed as both a challenge and a joy—the Labrador current is the bearer of moody weather shifts and a prolonged winter, and also the provider of the single greatest asset that continues to define our lives: the sea and its prolific marine life.  

In contrast to the traditional four seasons, we count Seven Seasons that tie into the foundational basis of our fishing economy (it should be noted many Fogo Islanders make the case for even more seasons). A close understanding of the natural environment is necessary when your livelihood is dependent on it. Before the advances of larger fishing boats and weather data, fishers had to learn to read the weather like the back of their hand (and still do) as any trip out into the ocean posed significant risk. 

Spring is when Icebergs arrive on the horizon

One of the most poignant examples of our first-hand knowledge as it relates to the human-caused changes we are seeing on Fogo Island is illustrated in ‘Iceberg Alley.’ Watching the glacial ice flow that passes by Fogo Island, carried by the swift Labrador Current, is a local pastime and an unofficial marker of the transition to summer. In recent years however, those majestic Icebergs have substantially increased in concentration and flowa change that Fogo Islanders have experienced in real-time simply by bearing witness to the same stretch of ocean year over year. This kind of qualitative, knowledge-based data is crucial for understanding what is changing in our oceans. It is knowledge that reflects a lived experience of the weather. 

Berry season on Fogo Island

What does art have to do with the weather?

Fogo Island Arts (FIA), Shorefast’s foundational program on Fogo Island, is underpinned by the conviction that individuals are shaped by placethat our knowledge, culture, and capacity to relate to one another depends on the specificity of our surroundings. Creating a healthy, vibrant community economy relies on integrating art and artists into dialogue and partnerships with diverse sectors of the community to broaden our understanding of what is possible.

The Fogo Island Red Weather Station is a reminder of our shared and embodied experience of weather that ties directly to our culture. This open-air exhibit will be a public space to facilitate community gathering and connection through conversations about the weather. For Gillick, this artwork is built around the relevance of intuitive knowledge to our conversationsbig and smallthat are necessary to address climate change in a meaningful way. A central theme throughout many of his climate-related projects is an interest in understanding “the history of the maths behind climate research, how and why things are measured as they are, and how different cultural traditions of tracking weather can add to our understanding of it.” 

In the local context, the Weather Station represents a new era of weather data collection on Fogo Island. Owing to our remote location, Fogo Island currently relies on triangulated data from nearby weather stations to provide a ‘best guess’ on the day’s weather events. Quantitative data collection on Fogo Island will increase our capacity to participate in scientific research as commissioned by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Marine Institute at Memorial University, as well as complementing our community science initiatives, such as ice-tracking, lobster-monitoring, and capelin spawning that are being rolled out under Shorefast’s Environmental Stewardship program.

Knowing that coastal cities and communities are at the forefront of the climate crisis, we are a bellwether for changes being felt globally. Our local knowledge and intimate relationship with the natural environment is a key asset in our adaptive and responsive future. 

By looking at the changes to our global weather through the lens of art we are invited to consider what is at stake for all of us.   

A Living, Breathing Ode to the Mighty Punt: The New Punt Premises Opens 

June 22, 2019

On Sunday, June 9th, 2019, a historic property took on new life with the opening of the new Punt Premises on Fogo Island. The Premises is an interactive cultural interpretation centre devoted to knowledge preservation as well as encouraging visitor interaction with the historical and cultural assets of the inshore fishery and its mighty workhorse: the punt. The Premises consists of a lovingly restored saltbox-style house, a traditional fishing stage, and two fishing stores that date back to the mid-1800s. These buildings collectively make up a typical outport fishing premises and were occupied by generations of several families in the community of Joe Batt’s Arm on Fogo Island.

On view at the Punt Premises are a wealth of cultural artifacts including cod traps and items associated with their making and mending, knots, boatbuilding tools and models, fishing gear, photos, sound recordings, and household items.  Importantly, the spaces of the Premises demonstrate how a fishing family lived and made a living in the vibrant inshore fishing era on which our outport culture was founded; it is both a tribute to our proud past and a promise for a hopeful and successful future off our province’s Northeast Coast.

The Punt Premises represents the next phase of our charity’s long-term work to safeguard Fogo Island’s boatbuilding heritage and all its associated knowledge for renewed and repurposed use in building a modern, outport economy; it is representative of “finding new ways with old things”.

Punts outside the Punt Premises
The Great Punt Race to There and Back, 2014, photo by Alex Fradkin. 

In 2007, Shorefast began the award-winning Great Fogo Island Punt Race to There and Back, and also spearheaded a school program that placed students in apprenticeship with boatbuilders to reinvigorate excitement and learning around the punts. After the Great Fogo Island Punt Race celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2017, attentions and energies were refocused on creating the Punt Premises as a permanent, dynamic, and publicly accessible place for residents and visitors alike to learn about the importance of the punt and the inshore fishery to our shared cultural history.

“Much of Shorefast’s work is about the making, preserving, and sharing of knowledge,” said Zita Cobb, CEO of Shorefast and Innkeeper of Fogo Island Inn. “The punts contain irreplaceable cultural knowledge that we intend to carry forward and make relevant for new generations through the Punt Premises. This project would not have been possible without the support and partnership of private donors and both levels of government.” Fogo Island Mayor Wayne Collins added: “The public programming for visitors and locals at the Punt Premises is a welcome addition to Fogo Island as we continue to grow our economy and ensure our heritage is preserved.”