New Dawn project in Sydney has the power to transform

We have seen, in city after city and town after town, the power of the arts to transform, particularly in other post-industrial settings.

As chair of the board of New Dawn Enterprises, I am honoured and excited to be part of this long-standing community organization as it continues along the path towards the restoration of the former Holy Angels convent and the creation of the Cape Breton Island Centre for Arts, Culture and Innovation.

Over the last five years, New Dawn’s staff and board have studied the intricacies, feasibility and sustainability of a centre for arts and innovation in downtown Sydney. In this time, we have learned a great deal, not only about the impact of similar undertakings across the continent but about our own community.

We have seen, in city after city and town after town, the power of arts and innovation to transform. This is particularly true in other post-industrial settings that, like Cape Breton, have struggled with economic reinvention and diversification.

Artists and the arts have played a central role in the revitalization of Syracuse, New York; Providence, Road Island; Baltimore, Maryland; Cleveland, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Paducah, Kentucky; Nantes, France; Lanesboro, Minnesota; Ashville, North Carolina, and the list goes on.

In each of these places, revitalization led by artists has meant an increased sense of cultural and collective identity, greater community cohesion and vibrancy, growth in tourism and business, the restoration of downtown/core districts, more opportunities for youth, and better attraction and retention of newcomers.

As individuals, the arts offer us all much-needed opportunities for self-expression, reflection, connection, discussion, growth and meaning.

The Cape Breton Centre for Arts, Culture and Innovation aims to be a vibrant and sustainable space that attracts artists, innovators, students, mentors, arts and culture organizations, patrons, and businesses from across the Island and around the world to work, create, produce, present, exhibit, collaborate, innovate, and further the impact and reach of both our artistic and our innovative communities.

When completed, the former Holy Angels convent will offer modern, accessible, secure, affordable work/studio and presentation spaces for more than 150 artists and innovators — affordable and accessible spaces that do not presently exist in the community and spaces that we believe will add to the incredible momentum, opportunities, and capacity enabled by our regions more established arts institutions.

New Dawn is a not-for-profit community organization that has worked to build community vibrancy and self-reliance in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality for more than forty years. In this time, and often as a conduit for the energies and expertise of others, New Dawn has established and operated financially sustainable projects and social enterprises in housing, healthcare, education, local investment, community engagement, and immigration.

In struggling communities, where resources of all kinds are often scarce, we believe it can be helpful to seek out projects whose outputs will be greater than their inputs; projects whose sum is greater than their parts. For the New Dawn board of directors, the Cape Breton Centre for Arts, Culture and Innovation is one such project.

We believe that this project has the power to rebuild an important community landmark into a contemporary community asset that draws in and amplifies our Island’s creative, innovative and forward-looking energies, and in doing so contributes to the transformation of the Northend, the downtown, and the Island.

Steve Lilley
CEO, Protocase
Chair, New Dawn Enterprises

Originally appeared in...

Cape Breton Post, April 30, 2017