The Gordon Pinsent Centre for the Arts was opened officially as the Grand Falls Arts and Culture Centre in 1971. With the amalgamation of Grand Falls and Windsor, it became the Grand Falls-Windsor Arts and Culture Centre.

The History of the Gordon Pinsent Centre for the Arts:

The Gordon Pinsent Centre for the Arts was officially opened as the Grand Falls Arts and Culture Centre in July of 1971. With the amalgamation of Grand Falls and Windsor, it became the Grand Falls-Windsor Arts and Culture Centre.

As of July 12, 2005, it became the Gordon Pinsent Centre for the Arts, in honour one of Grand Falls native sons - ac... tor and writer Gordon Pinsent, on the occasion of his 75th birthday, and during the town's Centenary.

The story of how this building came to be re-constructed in Central Newfoundland is a very interesting one. The building began it life in Montreal as part of Expo 67, “Man and His World”. It was the Czechoslovakian Pavilion which housed many of that country’s cultural treasures and technological innovations.

Popular Lore

On Tuesday, Sept.5, 1967 at Gander International Airport, a Czechoslovakian Airliner crashed on take off. Of the 69 people on board, 32 died instantly and five died later in hospital. Without the rescue efforts and dedication of the people from the James Paton Memorial Hospital in Gander, the Central Newfoundland Hospital in Grand Falls, and local rescue workers, more lives would have been lost. In 1968, as a gesture of gratitude, the Czechoslovakian Government transported to this site the major complex from its pavilion at Expo '67 in Montreal. It was reconstructed by the Newfoundland government and kept the exact same design and layout as the original structure. It took several years to complete the reconstruction due to financial problems, but finally the Centre was officially opened in July of 1971.

The facts

The Czechoslovakian Pavilion at Expo 67 was designed as a temporary structure which could be easily disassemble and reassemble. It was hoped that this feature would help in the sale of the building. The Newfoundland Government of the day had expressed an interest in buying the building but was not the first choice of the Czechoslovakian Government. After the aforementioned rescue efforts of the people of Central NL., the Province’s request to purchase may have been raised to the top of the list. The J. R. Smallwood government purchased the Pavilion for 230,000 crown with the intent of making it into and Arts and Culture Centre in Central NL. He also intended to name the Centre after the sixteenth century Roman Catholic Educationalist, Comenius, to honour the buildings Czech roots. The building was design by Czech Architects Miroslav Repa and Vladimir Pycha and the Centre still houses some of the artworks from the Pavilion when it was at Expo 67 in Montreal. The Pavilion was divided into two separate buildings. The restaurants and small theatre section of the Pavilion were re-assembled in Gander and the larger exhibition area was rebuilt in Grand Falls.

In the Gordon Pinsent Centre for the Arts there is an art gallery, a four hundred seat theatre, and a public library. These features in the building are named for pioneers from the community of Grand Falls. The theatre is named the Neala Griffin Theatre, after the prominent theatre and performing arts enthusiast who lived in Grand Falls. She was president and director of the Northcliffe Drama Club and she was also involved with adult education in the region.

The Art Gallery is named for Gwendolyn Cooper. She was the wife of the mill manager in the early days of the town and also a prominent arts supporter. Mrs. Cooper arranged many arts exhibits, taught art, and encouraged many young artists to pursue their artistic dream. She also started and encouraged the first performing arts group in this region.

The Harmsworth Public Library, named in honour of the Harmsworth family which founded the Anglo-Newfoundland Co. Ltd., moved from its original location on Church Road to this building on November 30, 1971.

This wonderful building continues to attract many cultural events. Performers and visual artists from all over the world have performed or exhibited in the Centre for the Arts. Throughout the year visitors and patrons alike are invited to view local, provincial, and national artworks and performers as well as use the public library as a resource centre. Housed in the Art Gallery are two permanent collections. The first is called "Project 2000", sponsored by the Central Newfoundland Visual Arts Society, which features fine examples of prominent Newfoundland born visual artists. The second collection, also sponsored by C.N.V.A.S., is called the “CNVAS Collection” and is comprised of works by visual artists who live in Newfoundland. The temporary gallery features works by local, regional, and provincial artists throughout the year.

The Czech Plane Crash

Thirty two persons died instantly aboard a Czechoslovakian airliner which crashed at Gander on Tuesday, September 5, 1967. Two more died after being admitted to the Paton Memorial Hospital, at Gander. The third casualty, Mr.Pilato, who boarded the flight at Gander, passed away at Montreal General Hospital. The fourth, a man of Polish nationality, died at Halifax and another expired in Montreal General Hospital the following weekend.

The Russian built IL 18 Turbo prop aircraft crashed seconds after taking off from Gander. The aircraft, in command of Captain Bacovsky, may have been attempting to land on the soft marsh when it hit the railway tracks and telegraph poles and somersaulted.

The first survivors to be located were: a stewardess, flight engineer, radio operator, a man, his wife and four children. Seven hours after the crash, the last survivor, a woman with her legs badly injured, was located under a piece of wreckage. Sixteen of the bodies have not been identified except by nationality and sex.

The remainder of the bodies were released by Magistrate Jack A. White of Gander and company planes belonging to Czechoslovakian Airlines and Cubana Airlines have since transported the bodies to Cuba and Prague.

Authorities at the Victoria General Hospital, Halifax and the Montreal General have commended the Paton Memorial Hospital for the manner in which the survivors of the crash were prepared for transfer to their respective facilities. Of the original 37 survivors admitted to the hospital here, 20 were transferred to Halifax and 7 to Montreal. Two died at Paton Memorial and one of the seven transferred to Montreal, Mr. Pilato, has also died, bringing the death toll to 37 out of 69 persons on board the aircraft. The hospital in Gander was assisted during the emergency, by: The Central Newfoundland Hospital, Grand Falls; General Hospital, St. John's; St. Clare's, St. John's; Provincial Department of Health Nursing Service, St. John's; Victoria General Hospital, Halifax; Montreal General Hospital, Montreal; Red Cross Service, St. John's and Toronto; and the United States Naval Hospital, Argentia.

Hospital Administrator Mr. Gover said, "The assistance received during the emergency was terrific." He made special mention of Les Gettel, Manager of Allied Aviation, for arranging transportation; members of the armed forces, both Canadian and American; members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; Eastern Provincial Airways; blood donors; Department of Transport; and numerous others who came forward and offered their services. Though the hospital maintains a ten bed crash ward, it was not in use during the tragedy because there was ample room to accommodate the crash victims throughout the facility.

The bodies of 29 victims left Gander on September 10th for the return trip to Prague. On hand for the simple ceremonies were: Rev. W. Vardy of the United Church; Rev. J.H. Moss of St. Martin's; Rev. J.P. McCarthy; the Hon. Charles R. Granger, representing the provincial government; Mr. James Tucker, M.P.; Magistrate Jack A. White of Gander; The Consul General of the Czechoslovakian Embassy in Montreal; Edward Bilek, president of the Czech airline; L. Kilack and airport manager, Jack James.

Mr. Bilek said it was his feeling that the number of people who died would have been greatly increased had it not been for the prompt action of the staff at James Paton Memorial Hospital. He said people of Czechoslovakia would always be in debt to those who did so much. He said, "the interest and concern shown by the people of Gander, who came out for the ceremony, is also appreciated." Close to 1,000 people attended the ceremony. Final identification for all but two of the victims came from Prague late that afternoon.

The Ilyushin IL 18D turbo prop airliner exploded into flames about 4000 feet beyond the end of Gander airport's runway. The aircraft, a Soviet built four propeller turbo prop aircraft, was owned and operated by CSA (Czechoslovakia State Airlines), and was only in service about three months and was practically new to CSA's fleet. It was given its certificate of airworthiness and registration on May 16, 1967. This aircraft was the mainstay of Soviet transport airliners in the early 1960's and was being built and exported to communist bloc countries. Hundreds were in service all over the world. The IL 18 was a modern passenger transport of sleek design and comparable to western standards of technology and was well proven in service with many airlines.

The aircraft, an IL 18D registered OK WAI left Prague, Czechoslovakia for its final destination Havana, Cuba with two technical and refuelling stops at Shannon, Ireland and Gander, Newfoundland. The aircraft stopped at Shannon and continued its flight across the north Atlantic uneventfully to Gander. The crew which flew the plane to Gander deplaned and was replaced with a new crew stationed at Gander. The aircraft lifted off near the end of the runway appearing normal except for a shallow climb out. The air plane, with 8900ft. of runway behind it, pancaked into very boggy ground beyond the end of the runway. The right wing tip struck a radar mast and exploded. Many of the passengers thought it occurred in flight. However the explosion occurred when the left wing and propellers struck the Canadian National Railroad tracks.


Akad. arch. Ing. Miroslav Řepa

Born on 24 February, 1930 in Pardubice, Czechoslovakia

He is member of the Czech Chamber of Architects, member of the Architectural Council of Metroprojekt, and he has never been member of any political party.

He has published works mainly in the magazines of Československý architekt and Architektura ČSR.

He graduated from the University of Architecture and Civil Engineering in Prague. After graduation, he was first employment – under billet – with the Military Projecting Institute (1953 – 1954). Then, he continued his studies at the Special School of Architecture under the guidence of prof. Frágner at the Academy of Plastic Arts in Prague. From 1957 to 1960, he was the chief designer in the Regional Projecting Institute in Gottwaldov. From 1961 – 1965, he was the head of the capital construction department of the National Theatre, with specialization in the preparation of the reconstruction of the three stages of the National Theatre. In 1965, together with architect Vladimír Pýcha, they won the national competition to design the Czechoslovakian Pavilion for the World Exposition EXPO 1967 in Montreal, Man his His World. In spring, 1966, he completed the Expo 67 project in Montreal where he was in charge of the building supervision. In 1969, together with the team Hanf – Franc – Nováček, they designed the Pavilion for Laterna Magika for the World Exposition in Osaka. This project was not realized, yet in spite of that, in October 1969 he went to the Japan EXPO 1970. There he created, in his position of the head designer, the building of the theatre Laterna Magika. Within one week of it‘s opening at that world exposition, he was sent by the Czech Secret Police, together with 41 "disloyal" artists, to the Soviet Union. First by ship and later by train via the trans-Siberian railway to Moscow and then back to Czechoslovakia. Starting from 1970, he participated in the reconstruction of Smetana Theatre and prepared the reconstruction of the National Theatre. In 1976, he left, at his request, the position of the head of the capital construction department of the National Theatre and was employed in the department of reconstruction of the National Theatre. In 1984, he was appointed as the head of the reconstruction department of the National Theatre with specialization in the reconstruction of Tylovo Theatre. He headed up this reconstruction until the solemn re-opening of Tylovo Theatre in the year 1991. Then, he went to Sevilla in the position of the technical director of the Czechoslovak Pavilion for the World Exposition EXPO 1992. Since 1993, he has worked, at the request of the Management of Prague Castle, as the curator of the exposition Josip Plečnik – Architecture for new democracy. This exposition met with an extraordinarily good response and at the conclusion of the exposition, it was converted into touring expositions under the sponsorship of the Czech Cultural Centres. From 1997 to 2000, this exposition was seen by visitors in Warsaw, Budapest, Lublana, New York, Berlin, Brussels, Paris, Barcelona and Haifa. The Management of Prague Castle also nominated him as the curator of the exposition "Ten Centuries of Architecture" at the Prague Castle, which was held in the premises of the Castle in the year 2001. At present, he has his own architectural studio with the prosaic name Řepa.

Mgr. Jaroslav Halada

Gwendolyn M. Cooper

Gwendolyn Muriel Bright fondly remembered as Mrs. L. R. Cooper was born in Ireland in 1869 and came to Grand Falls to live in 1910. The town was a far cry from her lovely, hometown of Cheltenham, England, where she had spent her childhood. It was even quite different from the capital city of St. John’s where she had worked in an educational capacity with the late Sir Joseph Outerbridge who had founded the first Kindergarten in Newfoundland.

Grand Falls was not new to Gwendolyn Bright when she came here as a bride in 1910 and took up residence on Riverview Road in the house she had designed. In 1908 she had come to Grand Falls as a guest of Manager and Mrs. Scott and it was then that she met the tall, young Englishman Lewis R. Cooper. Lewis had been sent by Sir Alfred Harmsworth ( later Lord Northcliffe ) to undertake the important and ticklish job of preparing and carrying out the official opening of the giant new mill in Grand Falls. It was not at all strange that Miss Bright, equally famous for her quick wit, spontaneous gaiety, and ability to charm people, quickly impressed the young Englishman. Nor was it long before she succumbed to his dynamic personality and undeniable charm. Gwendolyn and Lewis were married in St. John’s in 1910 and then came to live in Grand Falls.

Life in those early days tended to be somewhat primitive, but activities were undertaken wholeheartedly. Amateur theatricals were often staged following the construction of the first Town Hall and both Gwendolyn and Lewis were involved in the performances. Gwendolyn had long been known for her histrionic ability at home in England and in St. John’s and she now offered her talents to her new community of Grand Falls. The older generations will remember those early stage productions and the annual presentations of “The Andopians” which were eagerly anticipated. However, it should not be assumed that her activities were only recreational far from it. For more than forty years, this gracious lady worked zealously for every worthwhile endeavour that had been promoted in the town. With her sister, Nora Bright, Gwendolyn Cooper founded the first Girl Guides movement in Grand Falls. During the first World War she was famous for her Red Cross and WPA work in St. John’s. When World War II began, she threw herself once again into the work of both these organizations, this time in Grand Falls. When Grand Falls acquired tennis courts, badminton courts and a small golf course, Gwendolyn worked on several committees. She enjoyed the games, particularly golf, which she played into her early seventies. She played a pivotal role in the C. N. I. B. movement in Newfoundland and sold various artworks to raise funds for this worthy cause. On the walls of the Cooper home, numerous commendations for civic and military contributions were hung, some of which were from the King of England.

Gwendolyn Cooper also found time to express her impressions of her adopted home in oil and water colour. She has come to be known as one of Newfoundland’s finest artists and teachers, one who had shared her talents and knowledge with anyone who cared to ask. The Cooper home reflected her charm and her interest: the lovely flower garden, antique furnishings, old china, and her studio; all reflected her way of life. In the studio young people learned about the Arts: painting, theatre, as well as life in general. Gwendolyn Cooper was synonymous with the development of the arts in Grand Falls and encouraged anyone who had a desire to continue to develop their talents. Gwendolyn Muriel Cooper passed away on February 9th in 1965 at the age of 95. Her outstanding civic and artistic contributions were honoured on May 15, 1980, by having the Arts and Culture Centre Art Gallery named for her by then town mayor Mr. Charles Edwards. It is our great hope that the Gwendolyn Cooper Art Gallery will continue to inspire, educate and promote the visual arts and artists for many years to come.

Neala Griffin Biography

The success of any group can attributed usually, to the people and organizational skills of one individual person. If you look back over the past forty-five years of the Northcliffe Drama Club, there is only one person who stands out, who possessed these remarkable abilities. She was the cultural backbone of Grand Falls in the 50's and 60's, her name is Mrs. Neala Griffin. This talented lady dominated the early Drama Festivals of the fifties and sixties winning best full-length production and directing awards many times. A tribute to her contribution to the cultural life of this town is the fact that the theatre in the Arts and Culture Centre bears her name, “The Neala Griffin Theatre”.

Neala was a local, born in Grand Falls , the eldest daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Arthur Jackman. In 1934 she married James Griffin of Grand Falls and they had two children, a daughter, Laurie Ann and a son Arthur. She was a very devoted and loving mother who treasured her family life.

She helped found the Northcliffe Drama Club in 1950 (known then as the Notre Dame Drama Troupe) and acted as its director and president until her sudden death in 1968. As director of the Drama Club, she and the club won many highly regarded awards at the Provincial Drama Festivals. Northcliffe first entered these festivals in 1951 and by 1952 the club, under her direction, was starting to see success and results. Neala with her carefully picked plays and casts was becoming a force to be reckoned with.

These lists of accomplishments have never been matched or equalled. She and the Drama Club had truly established themselves as a group with the strength and determination. Her directing talents took her away from the Drama Club to work for the Memorial University Extension Services, where she put her talents and vast experience to use as the Field Director of the Memorial University Extensions Department. Her knowledge, talent, and abilities with people was being spread throughout the central region of the island.

On April 8, 1968, this tremendously talented lady succumbed to complications from a massive heart attack which she had suffered on April 6th. We will never know how much more Neala could have done to enrich the cultural heritage of Newfoundland and Labrador but she certainly left a tremendous legacy for everyone to admire and strive to attain. One legacy she left was her talent as a director. Her family recognized this every year since 1969 by donating the Neala Griffin Award for Best Director to the Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Drama Festival.