Eltuek Arts Centre

Supporting arts and innovation through adaptive reuse

The comprehensive revitalization of this over 130-year-old community landmark, a former Convent and school, has delivered a vibrant new home to visual artists, musicians, writers, arts organizations, and others driven by the desire to create, collaborate, and change the Island and the world through their art and culture.

Eltuek Arts Centre, a Mi’kmaw name meaning “we are making it together”, features 21 individual studios, a shared studio with 22 workspaces, a Café and Community Kitchen, anchor tenants like the Celtic Colours International Festival, The Coast Radio Station, a College Music Arts Program as well as a series of multi-purpose event spaces.

DTAH, in collaboration with Trifos Design Consultants, led the architecture and landscape architecture for the centre.

Location

Sydney, Unama’ki (Cape Breton Island), NS

Client

New Dawn Enterprises

Awards

Built Heritage Award, Heritage Trust Nova Scotia

Holy Angels Convent was founded in 1885 by the Sisters of Notre Dame and was the only all-girl educational institution east of Montreal. Over its long history, the Holy Angels Convent had undergone extensive additions and renovations, varying dramatically in construction and material quality.

When the school closed in 2011, the facility sat vacant for many years, until New Dawn Enterprises, the oldest community development corporation in Canada, purchased the site with a hope of providing affordable work and meeting spaces for artists.

Hallway with bright slanted windows with plenty of natural light, white walls and a yellow wall

We couldn’t possibly be prouder to be associated with [DTAH and Trifos work] and to have had the privilege (and great fun) of dreaming alongside you for a few years. To be able to offer this community, which we so love, a building of great beauty and purpose, one befitting of the Island, its people, its art, and its stories, is an experience that will always take my breath away.”

Erika Shea
New Dawn Enterprises

The collective vision for the renewal included the primary retention of the original structure, and the north wing of the facility, including tower, with the addition of a new stair enclosure and steel/glass terrace, as well as a two-storey ‘exterior vestibule’ at the existing tower.

Exterior of new stairway addition on Eltuek Arts Centre

The first floor consists primarily of offices and meeting rooms, while the second floor houses the popular café, commercial kitchen, large event spaces, lecture hall and gallery. The third and fourth floors consist of studios of varying sizes, collaboration spaces and offices. White walls in the galleries and studios allow for ideal conditions to exhibit art, while various accent colours selected by the local indigenous community on each floor assist in wayfinding.

Natural light on bright yellow walls and elevator door at Eltuek Arts Centre

The outdoor spaces are no less inviting and animated. The integrated landscape design for the Eltuek Arts Centre site along the George Street portion of the property enhances existing arrangements, with a newly defined entry drive and drop off area, a re-envisioned forecourt, which includes space and provision for public art, and an exterior gathering spot on the south lawn under the large specimen copper beech tree.

The completed project represents the success of another chapter in the ongoing, evolutionary story of the physical and cultural ‘make-up’ of this place, with renewed life and stewardship moving forward.