Students outside library

August 30, 2016 - 3:02pm


Tuesday, August 25, 2016 - Vardø , Norway

Submitted by Suzanne de la Barre, VIU field course faculty

The small island village of Vardø in Varanger has suffered from depopulation for over four decades. Abandoned buildings line the narrow streets, and tell a story of a once vibrant port city. Not so long ago the deserted village gained the reputation of being one of the worst places to live in Norway. As part of a campaign to shift that perception, and possibly attract new residents and tourism, the municipality invited international artists to come and paint on the canvas walls across town. The legacy of Komafest can be seen on any walk around town (go to www.komafest.comfor more information).

As part of the regeneration scheme, alongside the bird watching destination development, old buildings are also being bought up and renovated into guest accommodation. Our group of 40 for instance (33 graduate students, 6 faculty, and our bus driver), were housed in 6 different accommodations across town, including the personal home of the regional judge and justice of the peace who shifted to her summer cottage so we could stay in her home. Our Biotope walking tour guide tells us that since he moved to the village five years ago from the UK to work with his mentor Tormod Amundsen, he has see seen businesses close, but he has also seen many B and B’s open. He also tells us that he and his Norwegian wife have had two children since settling in Vardø; yet one more strategy that contributes to increasing the village population … 

Those interested in murals and community development should also check out Chemainus, British Columbia, Canada


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