Eltuek Arts Centre

Unama’ki (Sydney, Cape Breton)
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A community of artists in action  

Eltuek (el-du-eg) is a Mi’kmaw word that means “We are making (it) together.” 

For the Artists at the Eltuek Arts Centre, the it is definitely change. Change to the city of Sydney and the art that will be created there. Located in Unama’ki, also known as Cape Breton Island, the Eltuek Arts Centre hosts studios for creatives of all types. 

The four-storey building is a creative hub, intentionally designed from the shell of a historic property and includes fully accessible features. The centre also boasts a gallery and exhibition spaces and is home to local businesses, and offices for artist organizations. What is more fascinating than the building, is what is happening within its walls.   

“It’s been a really amazing place to have all of these artists and musicians be able to come together. It’s a place to gather to share knowledge with the community,” says Alanna Wilson, ceramicist and tenant at the centre. She mentions that she doesn’t have a home-studio and prefers to work in community with other artists. 

In the mind of Donald Calabrese, illustrator and cartoonist, the groups of artists at Eltuek will bring profound changes to the Sydney community. In his words, funding for artists “is important in a way that has never existed in Sydney before.”  

 “That’s what I feel what we all are working for,” he explains. “We want to create jobs, and have stable industries and infrastructure so that eventually one day we’ll create an environment that breeds culture and art. That’s the level we want to bring the community to.”   

The arts centre has formed a unique partnership with Mi’kmaq communities in Unama’ki to help develop an arts centre that values and incorporates Indigenous knowledge. Artists have a role to play in the decolonization journey and the reconciliation process.  

Robert Bernard, President and CEO of The Indigenous Guide has been involved in facilitating conversations between Mi’kmaq elders and leadership at the centre. He believes funding from Support4Culture “Is huge for Indigenous people and for organizations that want to make a change happen.” 

“Art is directly connected to who we are as a people,” Robert explains. “Our culture, what we’ve lost but even the process of how we are gaining all of that back. The regeneration of the culture through arts is a big piece.” 

In its first year, Robert has witnessed the centre lead in the region and the province on taking reconcili-action. “We are actually making changes to existing plans and taking a more inclusive route – looking at equity and what does that really mean for Indigenous people.”