Year founded: 2017
Organiser: 2 Rooms Contemporary Art Projects


Located on the edge of the continent, contributing to existing social initiatives, the Biennale positions itself as a rural "off-centre" event where creative, economic and cultural exchange is fostered, offering new ways of seeing and thinking about the world.

The Bonavista Biennale started as an idea among a few friends for a major art event on the Bonavista Peninsula. A volunteer organizing committee was formed to move the idea forward, securing financial and other support and laying the groundwork for the event. The Bonavista Biennale is a project of 2 Rooms Contemporary Art Projects, a non-profit gallery, museum and artist residency in Duntara, NL on Bonavista Bay. This year’s Biennale, Art Encounters on the Edge, is run by both volunteers and staff.

The people involved in starting the Bonavista Biennale live full- or part-time in Newfoundland, most of them on the Bonavista Peninsula. They share a belief in and commitment to the potential for the area, and believe that a bi-annual major art exhibition of regional, national and international note can contribute to a future already unfolding in this new tourism “hot spot”. The Bonavista Biennale is a first for Newfoundland, unique in the Atlantic Provinces at this time, and significant in the Canadian cultural landscape. The organizers hope that the Biennale will become a point of pride for both province and the peninsula, and an internationally-recognized cultural meeting place for artists, art lovers, tourists and residents.

The Bonavista Biennale is an innovative, rural-based, public art event occurring every two years on Newfoundland’s Bonavista Peninsula. It provides a unique platform for artists and audiences to explore, engage, challenge and express ideas on societal and cultural issues through contemporary visual art.

Works by Newfoundland and Labrador, Indigenous, other Canadian and international artists are installed at unconventional outdoor and indoor locations across the Peninsula, embedding contemporary art in the historic spaces and daily places of rural communities. Biennale visitors encounter a rich array of artworks, and the people, culture and powerful sense of place that comprise the Bonavista Peninsula.

This unmediated, immersive experience fosters greater understanding and appreciation of the ways in which art enhances our lives, what art can be, and what can be art.

The Biennale is a vital component of equitable access to the arts across Canada, and a means to rural community revitalization.

It brings contemporary Canadian art to a rural area with limited ongoing access to curated exhibitions, engaging residents and visitors through the exhibitions, events and educational experiences, and contributing to cultural tourism, employment and visitor spending on the peninsula.

Since we began in 2017, the Biennale has exhibited more than 75 artists, created 30 seasonal jobs, partnered with over 30 local organizations, engaged thousands of local residents, and generated $1.5 million in new spending on the Peninsula.

In this time of intense global awareness around issues of race, equality, reconciliation and belonging, we know that to remain responsive to the needs of our audiences and community we must continually examine our structures, governance, policies and practices. Over the last year, the Bonavista Biennale has taken some significant, concrete steps. We are sharing them with you here.

On January 1st 2020, the Biennale became an independent organization. Since then, we have reached out, listened to and learned from our broad community of participants, visitors, area residents and supporters. Guided by deeper insight into experiences and expectations of the Biennale, we’ve introduced a number of changes and improvements. These include: a new Board of Directors, with Indigenous representation and aiming for greater diversity; refinements to internal roles, operations and accountability; a Community Advisory Committee; and a Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee.

We believe that issues of historical and present-day treatment of Black, Indigenous, People of Colour and other marginalized groups; colonialism; diversity and inclusion; climate change and human impact on the planet are relevant both globally and locally. The Bonavista Biennale provides a platform for artists and audiences to explore, challenge and express ideas and viewpoints on these and other major issues. In bringing these issues to our audiences, the Biennale offers diverse artists opportunities to create new works that can excite, provoke and inspire. To have this impact, to innovate and imagine, we take risks, learn, and move forward in the pursuit of artistic, curatorial and organizational excellence.

The Bonavista Biennale will continue to evolve as an organization driven by the pursuit of excellence, and continue its commitment to engage artists and audiences in the most challenging issues of our time.