Busi­ness colum­nist sees a golden op­por­tu­nity for Cape Bre­ton.

Lev­er­ag­ing our arts and cul­ture sec­tor to a new level on the in­ter­na­tional tourism mar­ket

Cape Breton Post - - Cape Breton - Adrian White

Back in May 2017 the Gov­ern­ment of Canada chal­lenged Cana­dian busi­nesses of all sizes to col­lab­o­rate with other in­no­va­tion sec­tors, in­clud­ing post-se­condary and re­search in­sti­tu­tions, to pro­pose bold and am­bi­tious strate­gies that would de­velop job-cre­at­ing su­per­clus­ters of in­no­va­tion much like Sil­i­con Val­ley in Cal­i­for­nia. A Fed­eral in­vest­ment of nearly $1 bil­lion was an­nounced to be matched by the pri­vate sec­tor that would cre­ate 50,000 new jobs, boost­ing Canada’s $1.7 tril­lion GDP by $50 bil­lion and grow­ing re­gional economies in our coun­try.

In all, five re­gional Su­per Clus­ters were cre­ated fo­cus­ing on Dig­i­tal Tech­nol­ogy (BC), Agri­cul­ture (Prairies), Man­u­fac­tur­ing (ON), Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence bet­ter known as AI (QC), and the Oceans Sec­tor (At­lantic Canada).

Each clus­ter will re­ceive about $200 mil­lion of fed­eral sup­port matched by pri­vate sec­tor in­ter­ests in each clus­ter area. The ini­tia­tives hold great prom­ise to move Canada into the global fore­front in each of these spe­cific ar­eas of the in­ter­na­tional econ­omy.

I use this as a lead-in to a con­ver­sa­tion I had a few weeks back with a lo­cal busi­nessper­son who wanted to share an idea of a new ap­proach to grow­ing the Cape Bre­ton econ­omy by build­ing off our rich his­tory of be­ing a play­ground for artists. Our own su­per­clus­ter of sorts that would be fo­cused on grow­ing our in­ter­na­tion­ally re­spected arts and mu­sic sec­tor but with the ini­tia­tive spread all over Cape Bre­ton Is­land. Imag­ine cre­at­ing our own Soho, Green­wich Vil­lage or Yorkville here in Cape Bre­ton. Our is­land has ex­ported many high-pro­file suc­cess­ful mu­si­cians, ac­tors, artists and their prod­ucts over the years so the idea of ex­pand­ing on this suc­cess has se­ri­ous merit for fur­ther dis­cus­sion and con­ver­sa­tion.

Art and mu­sic have re­mained con­sis­tent in the lives of Cape Bre­ton­ers de­spite eco­nomic hard­ships caused by in­dus­try clo­sures and our youth head­ing West for jobs. Just think of the suc­cess­ful Celtic Colours fes­ti­val at­tract­ing tourists and artists from all over the world for 10 days in Oc­to­ber for the last 21 years. But what if we could also share our cul­ture, her­itage, and his­tory on a much larger scale with artists from all around the globe and be­come known as the place to go in Canada or for that mat­ter glob­ally where artists of all na­tion­al­i­ties could de­velop their full creative po­ten­tial?

The project has been dubbed “The Golden Loops.” Imag­ine three gold loops, one en­velop­ing east­ern Cape Bre­ton called the Vil­lage Loop, a sec­ond en­velop­ing western Cape Bre­ton called the Ocean Loop and a third en­com­pass­ing north­ern Cape Bre­ton called the High­land Loop with each loop em­brac­ing a va­ri­ety of artists from all over the world.

The con­cept would be the largest artis­tic awards project in the world. A $13,500 an­nual cash fel­low­ship along with $3,000 in sup­port ser­vices such as space, mar­ket­ing/ac­count­ing/ad­min as­sis­tance would be of­fered to creative artis­tic peo­ple from around the globe for a four-year term to­talling $66,000 per artist. The fel­low­ship would be of­fered to 700 artists an­nu­ally at its peak phased in over a three-year pe­riod. Each artist must spend 70 per cent of each year in Cape Bre­ton.

The project would re­quire buy-in from all res­i­dents of Cape Bre­ton, lo­cal artists, the busi­ness com­mu­nity, First Na­tions, uni­ver­sity, tourism as­so­ci­a­tions, and most im­por­tantly politi­cians from all colours and all lev­els of gov­ern­ment to have any chance of the project tak­ing root.

Va­cant spa­ces across Cape Bre­ton will be filled with a min­i­mum of three to 10 artists from dif­fer­ent back­grounds. Art, paint­ings, sculp­ture, pot­tery, jew­elry, mu­sic, act­ing and other dis­ci­plines all housed un­der the same roof, greatly in­creas­ing tourism to our re­gions. Struc­tures left va­cant for tax sale could be re­pur­posed. Where real es­tate is in short sup­ply, space in com­mu­nity halls and un­der­uti­lized schools and churches could be shared with the artists to cre­ate a cen­tre of art and in­no­va­tion.

Re­cent re­search in 2016 by Stats Canada and Nova Sco­tia De­part­ment Pol­icy and Plan­ning show an en­cour­ag­ing 1,389 es­tab­lish­ments for the art in­dus­try across Canada with an aver­age an­nual rev­enue of $315,000. Nearly 74 per cent of these en­ter­prises are cur­rently prof­itable. Ex­trap­o­lat­ing this suc­cess for the Golden Loop Project could gen­er­ate over $100 mil­lion in an­nual rev­enue and 2,700 new jobs for our re­gion, ac­cord­ing to the re­search. The best part is that most of this new rev­enue has high po­ten­tial to re­main in the lo­cal area as a stream of ex­port dol­lars to pos­i­tively im­pact our re­gion.

To get enough mo­men­tum for the ini­tial seven-year life of the project, the ini­tia­tive will re­quire seed­ing of ap­prox­i­mately $50 mil­lion. Over the first seven years ap­prox­i­mately $38 mil­lion will go to artist wages, $8 mil­lion for rental space, and $4 mil­lion for ma­te­ri­als, sup­ports, ad­min­is­tra­tion. Rev­enues will be gen­er­ated from sales of artist com­modi­ties to help off­set ad­min­is­tra­tion costs in the early years.

While de­tails re­main to be sorted on how best to firm up the project go­ing for­ward, the con­cept is de­serv­ing of a thor­ough re­view by all lev­els of gov­ern­ment. It builds on a fun­da­men­tal strength for Cape Bre­ton and is in­clu­sive of ev­ery re­gion of our is­land. Fo­cused com­mu­nity, gov­ern­ment and busi­ness lead­er­ship along with strong team­work will be es­sen­tial for its suc­cess. Now that is think­ing out­side the box! Is Cape Bre­ton ready to em­brace a change?

“Imag­ine cre­at­ing our own Soho, Green­wich Vil­lage or Yorkville here in Cape Bre­ton.”

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