The Eltuek Arts Centre, Sydney, Unama’ki, Cape Breton Island

The Eltuek Arts Centre, Sydney, Unama’ki, Cape Breton Island

After a Naming Ceremony by Mi’kmaw Elders held at sunrise on October 29, 2021, the Eltuek Arts Centre, a non-profit creative cultural hub in Sydney, Unama’ki, Cape Breton Island, has opened. DTAH, in collaboration with Trifos Design Consultants, led the architecture and landscape architecture for the centre.

The Eltuek Arts Centre, Sydney, Unama’ki, Cape Breton Island
Eltuek Arts Centre – Resonance by Ursula Johnson (Corey Katz)

Eltuek Arts Centre features artist studios, an Open Studio for shared artist workspaces, gallery and exhibition spaces, the Better Bite Café and Community Kitchen, Meals on Wheels, Nova Scotia Community College Music Arts Program, Celtic Colours International Festival, The Coast 89.7 FM Radio Station, and NovaStream.

The Eltuek Arts Centre, Sydney, Unama’ki, Cape Breton Island
Eltuek Arts Centre – Caitrian MacNeil Visual Artist

The facility  supports artists by offering affordable working studios and accessible exhibition space with Indigenous, non-profit, and tenant rates in addition to regular commercial rates.

“Eltuek (pronounced el-du-ehg), meaning “we are making (it) together.” The (it) refers to whatever it is that we decide to make – art, ideas, a shared meal, music, community, a brighter future.”

Eltuek Arts Centre was previously known as The Convent | Ta’n etl-mawita’mk, which opened in February 2020 in the former Holy Angels Convent, ca. 1895. It was purchased by New Dawn Enterprises in 2012 and the 130-year-old heritage building is the largest adaptive reuse of built heritage in Unama’ki (Cape Breton).

This naming initiative has come from a series of critical and transformative conversations held over four seasons by the Elders Advisory Group for Eltuek Arts Centre. The five Elder Advisors represent the Island’s Mi’kmaw communities and provide guidance and governance to ensure that Eltuek Arts Centre is welcoming to Mi’kmaw artists and community members.

The Eltuek Arts Centre, Sydney, Unama’ki, Cape Breton Island
Eltuek Arts Centre – Exterior (Corey Katz)

“Artists are often conduits for change and for truth – to call out the things that are wrong, to show us another path, to inspire awe and joy and wonder, to open our seeing and feeling and thinking to possible worlds. To be able to support artists and their work here in Unama’ki is a dream come true,” says Christie MacNeil, Eltuek Arts Centre.

With barrier-free interior spaces and grounds, the fully accessible site also features  way findings that appear in Mi’kmaq, English, and Braille. Revenues from these rentals help to subsidize spaces for artists and community members that are safe, and modern to explore.

“We strongly believe in all the benefits of the arts to communities — their ability to transform places, give people hope, give people a new way to see themselves and the world, start conversations, connect, challenge, confront, bring joy, inspire with awe. To this end, we want to make the arts more visible — to give people a place to work, gather, and share through art and culture that is accessible and beautiful and inclusive.”

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