It's likely Joanne B. Kaar's cross-Atlantic paper airplane project wouldn't have gotten off the ground if she hadn't picked up a copy of her local Scottish newspaper one day.
Kaar is an artist in Dunnet, Scotland. She said she doesn’t usually get the local newspaper, the John O’Groat Journal and Caitness Courier, but recently she grabbed a copy and something caught her eye — an article in it featuring Newfoundland and Labrador.
Kaar said the article looked back 100 years ago to just after the First World War and the days leading up to the race of the first non-stop transatlantic flight — that was eventually won by British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown.
The article, however, focussed more on the aviators Harry George Hawker and Kenneth Mackenzie-Grieve who also left from Newfoundland but were forced to ditch their airplane off the coast. A Danish steamer found the men and brought them to Scrabster, Scotland, where they were greeted by a large gathering.
The article led to an idea in which Kaar began matchmaking people in Newfoundland and Scotland through a project called, Paper Aeroplane Exchange, while at the same time making art history.
“We are connecting with Newfoundland again, and the paper airplanes are just a fun excuse,” Kaar said.
Kaar has been to Newfoundland three times as maker in residence with the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador in Woody Point and at the Old Cottage Hospital in Norris Point.
She’s currently working as a consultant on a portable museum project with Trinity Bay Historical Society.
She always returns home and talks to her community about the people and the island’s similar landscapes to Scotland, she says.
(My community is) just excited because they’ve heard so much about Newfoundland from me, and they have the same interest in heritage.” Kaar said.
Kaar has matched up museums and societies in three different areas from both Scotland and Newfoundland who will be sending paper airplanes to each other.
“It’s a fun icebreaker and a fun excuse for making friends and forming new connections,” Kaar said. “My hope is they will share knowledge and maybe try some other fun project ... who knows?”
Kaar wanted the project to be something that “anybody any age or ability can do.”
Samantha Gaulton is the marketing and communications coordinator for Admiralty House Communications Museum, who Kaar has matched up with Strathnaver Museum in Sutherland, Scotland.
“Us and Project Kindness had a discussion that we wanted to do an event together that was centered around airmail because it would tie into the field of flight exhibit,” Gaulton said.
“Through the jigs and the reels, we were contacted by Joanne Kaar.”
“We wanted to partner with Project Kindness because of the meaning that they have behind their organization and of course, we were like ‘what can we write inside these paper airplanes’?” Gaulton said. “It was given as an idea to write about our community, where we grew up and what it meant to us, to tell a stranger.”
Admiralty House Museum is the first location starting the project, with their first event on Tuesday, July 23, 2019.
“Some of the messages are so touching,” “Some are in French, some are from Georgia, some are from Lewisporte … and they are just being sent to a stranger,” Gaulton said.
Sofia Sharpe, 9, was one of the participants at Paper Aeroplane Exchange event in St.John’s.
“It was really fun! I wrote a message saying, 'be good, be kind and make good choices.' Me and my mom say this every morning before I go to school or daycare and it makes me happy. I hope it makes someone else happy too!”
The other locations are Old Cottage Hospital Heritage and community centre in Norris Point, which is paired with Castletown Heritage Society in Caithness, Scotland, and Trinity Historical Society in Trinity is paired with Wick Heritage Museum in Caitness, Scotland.
Jayne Blackburn is the secretary of Castletown Heritage Society, operating from Castlehill Heritage centre in the parish of Olrig in Caithness, Scotland. They have been busy planning their contribution, Blackburn said.
"We cannot start with the children until they are back in school from their summer holidays. We have decided to have three stages for our project. They are as follows: The history of Castlehill heritage and of our surrounding area ... looking at the connections between here and Newfoundland, and the local school and other children are going to write their impressions of their own home area."
Castlehill Heritage centre is partnered with the Bonne Bay Cottage Hospital Heritage Corporation.
The other locations are deciding individually what they design their planes with. They may choose other than sharing about their community and kindness, but they will be sharing positivity over an entire ocean.
All paper planes sent to Newfoundland from Scotland will be exhibited at the Craft Council Newfoundland and Labrador gallery in St. John’s on Feb. 14, 2020 and then will be archived in Memorial University’s Libraries Archives and Special Collections.
All paper planes sent to Scotland from Newfoundland will be displayed in Nucleus the Nuclear and Caithness archive before being archived.