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Port Bickerton Lighthouse Artist-in-Residence

  • 16 July 2016
  • -
  • Professional Development
  • |
  • Artistic Residency


I was selected as the 2015 Port Bickerton Lighthouse artist-in-residence.

I spent two weeks living in a renovated lighthouse keeper's cottage in the small fishing village of Port Bickerton, NS. Located in Guysborough County, along the Eastern Shore, it provided opportunities for landscape, documentary, and nature photography.

I was awarded the residency through an annual competition, following in the footsteps of the 2014 (and first) artist-in-residence, Nova Scotia painter Susan Paterson. I consider myself both fortunate and honoured to have been selected.


I was excited about this residency ever since I first heard about it. It offered several opportunities: creative and professional growth; an expanded body of work; experience to assist me in obtaining future grants and residencies; and, the chance to create at least one well-defined series of images. It was also an opportunity to develop a landscape subject over an extended period of time, minus the travel and other costs associated with multiple visits to a single location. Finally, it was an incredible opportunity for uninterrupted work and creative exploration. I've struggled with many of these things over the past couple of years, so the residency was both timely and welcome.

Programme Description - Port Bickerton Lighthouse Association:

The programme is designed to offer a period of quiet seclusion and reflection to established artists working on their craft. It offers a time to re-group from busy schedules with uninterrupted time for creative exploration and experimentation. The residency award includes lodging and studio space. There is no requirement to produce a body of work, although the residency should be viewed as an outstanding opportunity for artistic development.

The residency was my first visit to that area, so I had the chance to explore new territory and new artistic possibilities free of influence or preconception. Since I was there for two weeks, I had time to discover and massage the creative possibilities I was presented with, and there were many. I did have some plans, which were outlined in my original proposal (see below). Otherwise, I simply played it by ear and worked the light, the land, and the weather to the best of my abilities.

Project Proposal

My primary focus for the residency was to push and deepen my work in the landscape genre as I strive to represent typical scenes in atypical ways, to isolate individual components instead of concentrating on the whole, and to highlight colours, forms, and textures within the image. The individual photographs may be traditional, fine art or minimalist with an emphasis on the latter two. Whenever possible, I prefer to photograph scenes on multiple occasions, capturing them in different light and weather, to demonstrate the evolution and fluidity of the subject despite using a static medium. The two-week duration of the residency greatly facilitated this. When conditions were ill-suited to landscapes, I turned to detail and abstract photography. I maximized the time available to me, scheduling efforts such that available light and weather were best matched to subjects and/or genres.

As time permitted, I also sought out editorial subjects. The residency coincided with the local lobster fishing season, providing an opportunity to expand upon one of my personal projects. I was able to spend two days with skipper Bruce Jack and crew aboard the Andrea Lynn, adding a new chapter to the ongoing Aboard the Irish Lass documentary. I was also able to create a small fine art series from a short visit to the blacksmith forge at Sherbrooke Village. However, the primary emphasis was on landscape photography.

Although the terms of the residency have no stipulations on the number of works to be completed, I hoped to finish with approximately 10 select images including at least one distinct series.

Project Summary

Prior to arriving in Port Bickerton, a brief article about my residency was published in the Guysborough Journal. The tearsheet can be viewed here.

A guest blog post summarizing my residency was submitted to the artsnb website and published in January 2016.

Photographs from the residency are available for purchase as open or limited edition prints. If you are interested in an image that's not listed in the Prints page, please contact me.

Grant - artsnb

My residency was sponsored, in part, by a Career Development Grant from the New Brunswick Arts Board (artsnb). The grant provided funding to cover subsistence and travel costs associated with the residency. My thanks to artsnb for supporting this professional opportunity of mine, and for their continued promotion and support of the arts and artists in New Brunswick.

artsnb Logo

This activity is supported by the New Brunswick Arts Board. Cette activité est soutenue par le Conseil des arts du Nouveau-Brunswick.

Port Bickerton and Area

The following is a compilation of information on the Port Bickerton and Area Planning Association, and the Port Bickerton Lighthouse Association, obtained from their website at www.portbickertonlighthouse.ca:

Port Bickerton, a rural community on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia has a rugged beauty and a rich maritime history. The village hugs the harbour with the lighthouse, interpretive center and lightkeeper’s house on a jut of land at the most easterly point. Its trails and beaches offer visitors a breath of solitude. The crashing waves on a rocky shore beckon visitors into a poetic Winslow Homer like landscape where the sea never fails to inspire.

The Port Bickerton Lighthouse is located at the western extremity of Barachois Head on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore, marking the entrance to Port Bickerton harbour. The lighthouse has been an important and integral part of the local community since the establishment of the first lighthouse in 1901. This initial structure was destroyed by fire in the late 1920s. The second lighthouse, constructed in 1930, now houses the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Interpretive Centre. The most recent lighthouse (circa 1960), the third in the series, was de-staffed and automated in 1988. Fisheries and Oceans Canada identified the Port Bickerton Lighthouse site as surplus to its needs and no longer required in the mid-1990s. Ownership of the property was subsequently transferred to the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s in October 2012.

The Nova Scotia Lighthouse Interpretive Centre was established in 1997. The Centre is an educational and resource tool for the dissemination of information and knowledge about the Port Bickerton Lighthouse and in particular and Nova Scotia lighthouses in general. It occupies the restored second lighthouse, built in 1930, and the nearby lightkeeper’s residence, built in 1960. The Centre has been enhanced further with 3.7 kilometers of nature trails, and the entire site now forms part of the Port Bickerton Lighthouse Beach Park. The Nova Scotia Lighthouse Interpretive Centre is open annually from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., 7 days a week, from June 15th to September 15th. When the lightkeeper’s house is not in use for the Artist in Residence Programme, it is available on a weekly basis as an artist or vacation retreat from May 1st to October 15th. The house is well equipped as a vacation property, and accommodates up to four persons in two bedrooms. Income generated from vacation rentals helps support the efforts of the non-profit charitable Port Bickerton and Area Planning Association to protect and preserve the historic lighthouse.

In response to plans by the federal government in the mid-1990s to transform the lighthouse site into a toxic waste dump, concerned citizens in Port Bickerton formed the non-profit, all-volunteer Port Bickerton And Area Planning Association (PBAPA) to ensure the continued existence and protection of the lighthouse and the surrounding property. The PBAPA is a designated charitable organization under the Canada Income Tax Act. The mission of the PBAPA Association is to protect and preserve the history and cultural heritage of the community of Port Bickerton and the pristine natural environment in which it is located. The preservation of the Port Bickerton Lighthouse is a source of pride and accomplishment to the citizens of a community especially hard hit by the decline of the fisheries industry. It also provides direct economic and social benefits to a community struggling to maintain its identity and viability in an economically stagnant region.

Port Bickerton Lighthouse Artist-in-Residence Programme

Please visit the Port Bickerton Lighthouse Association website for complete details and application information on their Artist-in-Residence Programme. It is an incredible opportunity for Atlantic Canadian artists to dedicate one or two weeks to their craft, or to simply relax and rejuvenate. The coastal landscape is both rugged and beautiful, and the residents not only exemplify Maritime warmth and hospitality but bring it to a whole new level.

The Port Bickerton Lighthouse artists-in-residence include:

Local painter Wilda Kaiser, a driving force behind the creation of the artist-in-residence programme, also serves as one of the hosts for the selected artists.

Port Bickerton and the surrounding area is also home to a number of other fine craftspeople working in various media. Some of their work is on display, and available for sale, at the Interpretive Centre.

Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage Rentals

When not being used for the artist-in-residence programme, the Port Bickerton Lightkeeper's cottage is available for weekly rentals between May 1st and October 15th. Revenue generated from the rentals are used to support the maintenance and upkeep of the cottage, the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Interpretive Centre, the surrounding trail systems, and the artist-in-residence programme.

Friends of the Light

You can support the efforts of the Port Bickerton and Area Planning Association through a Friends of the Light Membership. You can purchase an annual membership, which provides seasonal family access to the trail system and Interpretive Centre, or simply make a donation in the amount of your choice. Again, the revenue generated is used to support the maintenance and upkeep of the cottage, the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Interpretive Centre, the surrounding trail systems, and the artist-in-residence programme. The Association is a registered charity, and annual memberships are tax-deductible.

About Dan

Dan MacDonald - Fine Art Landscape Photographer from Moncton, NB, Canada

I am a photographer and photography instructor based in Moncton, NB, Canada. I specialize in fine art landscapes.




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