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A History of the Renovation Project
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 four years of operations, the Centre continues to evolve and is home to tenants who work in the arts, immigration, education, and entrepreneurship: the Art Room, Nova Stream, Corey Katz Photography, CBMIC, Celtic Colours International Festival Box Office, Raylene’s School of Music, Navigate Start-Up House, the Cape Breton Island Centre for Immigration, The Third Floor Studios, Robyn Cathcart Productions, the Cape Breton Orchestra, and Common Good Solutions, among others.
You can learn more about 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, musicians, actors, dancers, designers, developers, photographers, videographers, cinematographers, writers and story tellers. The Centre for Arts and Culture aspires to provide a welcoming place in which artists can collaborate, work, develop and hone their craft, and share their work with 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 and culture tenants, as well as meeting/presentation spaces, 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. Renovations began in September 2017.
Our evolving understanding of the need for and operations of a Centre for Arts and Culture has been garnered through our now four years of operational experience in the high school, a year-long Feasibility Study including 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 will offer space for four larger arts organization tenants, three meeting/presentations spaces (15 people, 40 people, and 100 people), a cafe and community kitchen, and approximately 22 private studio spaces and 23 furnished spaces in a large open studio.
One of the main drivers of this project has been the need to provide affordable, safe, clean, welcoming, inspiring, creation 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. Details on how this subsidy will be applied remain a topic of study and conversation for the project's Advisory Committee and we look forward to being able to share more about the subsidy program in the Spring 2019.
You can see the preliminary design concept and floors plans for the Centre for Arts and Culture here.
On Monday, March 5th and Saturday, April 7th, 2018 the Centre hosted open house/information sessions to update interested community members on the current stages of the convent renovation project. You can view updated floor plans here as well as up-to-date exterior renderings (April 2018) provided by the project's design team (Trifos Design Consultants and DTAH).
Public information sessions will be held in Spring 2019 to give updates on the renovation project and provide insight into The Convent's operational planning. Stay tuned!
The best place to keep up-to-date on the project's progress is on the The Convent's Facebook Page here.