GUYSBOROUGH – Mulgrave Road Theatre’s (MRT’s) vision for the future got a major boost on July 22, with $2.6 million in funding announced to support its expansion plans.
Based in Guysborough, the theatre has been fueling and contributing to the artistic life of Nova Scotia for more than 45 years. MRT’s focus has always been producing and developing professional works of theatre, fostering artistic and cultural experiences for the community and supporting talent in the province.
Throughout those decades, the theatre has almost always staged productions in facilities owned and operated by other organization – but that’s about to change.
In 2020, the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) gifted the former Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation building on Highway 16 to the theatre and on July 22, Cape Breton-Canso MP Mike Kelloway announced the multi-million-dollar contribution in federal funding to help construct the new RoadHouse Creative Centre, an addition to and renovation of the building.
The vision for the new centre includes a 2,500 square foot transformable creation and performance space, with automatic retractable seating for 90 to 100 audience members; an additional 5,500 square feet dedicated to housing a mulit-purpose lobby and meeting space; dressing rooms, storage space, workshop facilities and community gathering spaces.
The design for the new centre meets Canada Green Building Council’s Zero Carbon Standard- Design Version 2 – and will include passive ventilation and solar design, a solar energy system, and energy efficient lighting and plumbing.
Speakers at the funding announcement included Kelloway; Nova Scotia Minister of Communities, Culture, Tourism, and Heritage Pat Dunn; and MRT’s Artistic Director Emmy Alcorn.
Kelloway said public spaces are important and that’s why the federal government continues to invest in facilities, such as MRT’s RoadHouse. He added that the new artistic hub, “will provide lasting benefits for Guysborough and northeastern Nova Scotia for both artists and patrons, providing a modern and accessible space for all kinds of local and regional artists to show their artwork.”
The green design, said Kelloway, “will also help in our efforts to fight climate change and create a cleaner community. As we work towards our goal of achieving zero emissions by 2050, projects like this one will help ensure that we are creating opportunities for Canadians and residents of Guysborough County along the way.”
Dunn told those gathered that he recognized the past two years had been difficult ones for those in the arts and culture sector and went on to praise the MRT’s community outreach over those years, bringing new experiences and opportunities to all ages through such programs as seniors crafting socials and Roadies for youth.
“Our government is proud to support the expanded RoadHouse Community Creative Hub which will have a great impact on the creative community here in Guysborough and beyond,” said Dunn, pointing to the provincial commitment of $400,000 to the project last March.
“My thanks to the board and staff of the Mulgrave Road Theatre for their dedication, commitment and passion, to making eastern Nova Scotia a haven for the arts. I certainly look forward to seeing this wonderful project develop,” he added, while thanking municipal and federal governments for their support.
Alcorn said that ever since she arrived in Guysborough in 1995, “It has been my dream that one day we would have a place of our own, where we could carry out our tradition of creating transformative works of theatre that reveal who we are, and the choices we make as humans. Where we could invite artists and organizations to come to Guysborough to develop and present their work. Where we could welcome and support the people of this region, offering accessible programming that makes them feel included, worthy and uplifted. And bring all generations of our community together to express themselves through theatre, music, visual arts, and digital media. And now we are on the brink of having a place where all of those activities can come together under one roof.”
Alcorn went on to say that the renovation and construction of the RoadHouse will give MRT a home base that is purpose built for moving creative ideas into reality.
In our space, said Alcorn, “We can hang whatever we want on the walls. We can paint the walls. We can even move the walls and always be in the mode of creation, innovation and evolution.”
Alcorn said she was grateful to all levels of government for understanding and supporting the theatre’s vision and noted that the federal government’s contribution allowed MRT, “to not only be cultural leaders but also environmental leaders and moves us beyond a dream to making our vision a reality.”
The price tag for the RoadHouse Creative Centre project is $6 million, half of which has been secured, with a projected completion date of summer 2024.
Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal