PORT HAWKESBURY: The Town of Port Hawkesbury is hoping to bring new life to an empty structure on Granville Street while providing new cultural opportunities within the community.

The town has been working in partnership with the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design to develop a local Artists in Residence program.

“It’s something that we’ve been thinking about for a number of years while watching trends on how to work in the cultural sector and how to attract it to your community,” said Paula Davis, director of recreation for the Town of Port Hawkesbury.

“We met with the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design and discussed it and thought it was a great idea, and then we started the proposal writing.”

Requests for funding have been submitted to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, as well as the Province of Nova Scotia to transform the former customs building on Granville Street into a studio space for artists. Davis says the Centre for Craft and Design has been taking the lead on the project and the town has been working in close collaboration with the Sydney-based group.

Davis said the program will provide equipment and studio space for the artists selected to participate. She hopes that the project will provide artists an opportunity to collaborate and develop their craft.

“One of the things we will be doing besides setting up a retail space in front of the building will be looking at doing workshops with the schools and in the community,” said Davis. “So there’s sort of a relationship building between the community and the artist. That gives them exposure as well and helps them get themselves situated in the community.”

In addition, the program would provide the artists with professional development opportunities including business training courses, such as accounting and marketing.

“Once our funding is approved, then a call will go out to artists who may be interested in participating and they’ll submit an application,” said Davis.

A committee will review the applications under the leadership of the Centre for Craft and Design and a minimum of three artists will be selected to take part in the program. Davis says she should have a better idea of the timeline for the project early in the New Year.

Davis says the project would have several benefits for the community from helping artists and young people to put down roots in the town, to promoting economic development near the waterfront.

“Port Hawkesbury has a pretty longstanding connection with the arts. We do a lot of cultural programming,” said Davis. “This is just a nice extension, and hopefully, if we can breathe some life into Granville Street, other businesses will follow.”