Acadian culture focus of planned Chéticamp arts academy

An Acadian village in western Cape Breton has received some exciting news for both its arts council and its business community.

The federal government has announced an investment of $500,000 in the Conseil des arts de Chéticamp to develop a performing arts academy that focuses on Acadian culture.

Another $400,000 from the province will allow the council to build a facility adjacent to École NDA and combine the two to create a so-called cultural quarter.

Paul Gallant, school and community development officer, said the cultural quarter will provide space for large gatherings, breakout rooms, workshop areas, another theatre to go with the existing 350-seat facility in the school and overnight accommodations for visiting students.

"We're going to be adding residences, like bunk bed-style things, so that we can do all sorts of programs for kids in the summer," he said. 

"That was another market we thought we should try to improve on. In the summer we'll be doing all these art camps and artists retreats."

Acadian emphasis

Gallant also said that during the regular school year, there will be two- and three-day retreats for students, with special emphasis on those in Acadian schools.

"It's all about cultural development, it's also about basically doing wellness camps for students. This is something that's not just going to serve NDA, but we're going to be available for especially the CSAP [Conseil scolaire acadien provincial] school board from across the province." 

Gallant said there's excitement about other economic opportunities the expansion will make possible, such as large weddings and conventions which Chéticamp has not been able to accommodate since the closure of a facility known as the Acadian Centre.

Eventually there will be rental space for art shows, a farmers market and a full-service café, he said.

The estimated cost for the project is just over $2 million, said Gallant, noting the municipality and the Acadian school board have promised to help and that other fundraisers are in the works.

There's no date yet for the startup of the expansion, he said, but after Monday's initial meeting of the arts council, there will be some concrete action to get things going.