The Convent

In May of 2013, following two years of preliminary research, New Dawn Enterprises purchased the former Holy Angels convent and high school from the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame. On May 30, 2013, the former high school (built in 1958) was opened as the temporary New Dawn Centre for Social Innovation and a preliminary group of tenants began to re-imagine and re-enliven the former classrooms and office spaces.

After three years of operations, the Centre continues to evolve and is home to tenants who work in the arts, start-ups, immigration, education, and entrepreneurship: the Art Room, the Forrester School of Dance, Nova Stream, Corey Katz Photography, CBMIC, Celtic Colours International Festival Box Office, Raylene’s School of Music, the Uhma Institute of Technology, Navigate Start-Up House, Ubique, the Cape Breton Island Centre for Immigration, Enter Left Productions, the Cape Breton Orchestra, Common Good Solutions, and the CBU Co-operative Study Space, among others. 

You can learn more about some of our tenants here.

Many of these individuals and organizations have joined the high school building temporarily with aspirations of moving into the adjacent convent once renovations are complete.

Cape Breton Island, rich in natural beauty, relishes in its abundance of artists and creativity – painters, sculptors, craftspeople, musician, actors, dancers, designers, developers, photographers, videographers, cinematographers, writers and story tellers. The Cape Breton Centre for Arts, Culture and Innovation aspires to provide a welcoming hub in which artists and innovators can collaborate, work, develop and hone their craft, and share their work with the local and visiting publics in an affordable and modern facility.

The proposed renovation would fully restore the former convent building, ensure all fire and life safety requirements are met in the convent, update all mechanical and electrical systems in the convent, provide for a significant number of fully-accessible small, medium, and large leasable spaces for arts, culture and innovation tenants, as well as workshop and gallery space, and create a modern, efficient, and sustainable building that retains the heritage characteristics and façade that are important to the community.

Renovations to the convent building will take between 18 and 24 months to complete at which time new and existing tenants would be able to begin occupying the building.

Our ever-evolving understanding of the need for and operations of a Centre for Arts, Culture, and Innovation has been garnered through our now four years of operational experience in the high school, a year-long Feasibility/Future Uses Study including in-depth community consultations (Lord Cultural Resources), ongoing mentorship with Artscape (Toronto) and the Centres for Social Innovation (Toronto), and more recently a preliminary Site Planning Process and Report with DTAH Architects and Trifos Design).

The Centre would offer three floors of studio, creation, and presentation space to arts and culture tenants (Floors Two, Three and Four: 77.85% of total leasable square footage) and one floor (Floor 1: 22.15% of total leasable square footage) of office and collaboration space to innovators and entrepreneurs not working in the arts and culture field.

One of the main drivers of this project has been the need to provide affordable, safe, clean, welcoming, inspiring, creation and space to artists. Often artists are unable to afford even standard below-market rents. Consequently, we continue to learn more about and adapt our rental structure to reflect the actual budgets of local artists for creation space. In addition to moving towards small, fully-serviced/all-inclusive, low rent spaces, we are excited to have included in the project plan, an annual Artist Subsidy of $50,000. Although the details remain the subject of conversation, this subsidy would be applied to the rental fees of 25 work spaces providing 25 artists with a further $2000 reduction in costs. 

You can see the preliminary design concept and floors plans for the Centre for Arts, Culture and Innovation here.

As the renovation plan becomes more concrete over the next few months, and as we begin to move from concept drawings to construction drawings, we will hold a number of open houses and consultations with the community, artists, innovators, existing tenants and future tenants, to look at the various spaces, and what they can and must provide in order to succeed and to be of most use.