New community partnership forged in Cape Breton
December 19, 2011

NSCAD University and the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design (CBCCD) have entered into a partnership to provide artistic residencies for NSCAD emerging artists in Sydney, Cape Breton.

“We are thrilled with this new partnership,” says Sharon Blanchard, director of the School of Extended Studies. “It’s a wonderful way of elevating the profile of NSCAD University in Cape Breton and for the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design to extend its expertise into NSCAD.”

Under the agreement, the first two graduates will begin residencies with CBCCD in the summer. While living in the Sydney community, residents will get access to a studio space for their artistic practice. At the same time, they’ll hold art classes and workshops and host public lectures and special exhibitions for members of the community. NSCAD students entering their last semester of study will be eligible to apply.

“What we hear from our students is that one of the most difficult things is getting access to a studio once they graduate,” says Ms. Blanchard. “That’s what makes artistic residencies so important; they really do act as launch pads for careers.”

The Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design is located on Charlotte Street in the heart of Sydney. Its mandate is to promote excellence in the field of craft and design through education, training, exhibitions and special events. The centre boasts beautiful facilities, including a loft, multipurpose room, studios and a gallery.

“The Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design is delighted to work with NSCAD University to bring a community studio residency program to the Island,” says Carol Beaton, executive director of CBCCD. “This program offers the Centre the opportunity to enhance the appreciation of craft in our local community while offering young artisans the opportunity to use our state-of-the-art studios to develop their practice.”

The Cape Breton community studio residency is the third such program in Nova Scotia; NSCAD University has also forged collaborations with the Town of Lunenburg and the Town of New Glasgow. Now entering its sixth year, the partnership between NSCAD and the Town of Lunenburg was recently renewed for another five years. The New Glasgow program is in its second year.

NSCAD alumna Amélie Jérôme (BFA 2010) was one of three Lunenburg residents in 2010-2011. After her residency wrapped, she decided to stay on and now lives and works on her art everyday in the scenic fishing village of Blue Rocks, just down the road from Lunenburg. “Well, I’m still here, so that gives you an idea of how much I liked it,” she says.

She said the experience was invaluable—boosting her confidence and allowing her to develop as a professional artist.

“It’s such a good transition from NSCAD to the working world—you have a studio space to make your work and I got a lot done,” she says. “We are well supported by NSCAD—and the community. Lots of people came in to visit us and talk about our work. It’s been really wonderful to share it in this way and they made us feel so welcome.”

From Montreal, Amélie is an abstract painter; initially, she was unsure how her work would be perceived in Lunenburg, but feels it was not only appreciated but embraced. During an exhibition of her work, she sold seven of 11 large-scale abstract canvases. She’s now working on her next exhibition, to take place in New Brunswick in the spring.

“I just thrive with this lifestyle,” says Amélie. “There are no distractions and you can really experiment. Wherever my life takes me, I’ll always feel this place has my heart.”

The benefits of the community studio residency programs are felt not just by the participants, but the communities as well. New Glasgow’s Kimberley Dickson says the three NSCAD grads now working and living in the town infuse it with energy and enthusiasm.

“It offers us the opportunity to support the creative economy and arts and culture in our community,” says Ms Dickson, director of marketing and communications for New Glasgow.

“The town has made this a strategic priority; we want New Glasgow to be known as a music destination, a centre for local food, and having a thriving arts and culture scene—all of these things together create a dynamic, thriving and sustainable community.”