Lunenburg's mayor lays out blueprint for town's arts and culture success

While it may still be best known as the birthplace of the Bluenose and as a vibrant fishing port, in recent years, Lunenburg has become a magnet for creative talent.

Rachel Bailey says the town of 2,300 has become a magnet for creative talent

Lunenburg has traditionally been known for its fishing and marine-related economy, but that has changed. (Taxiarchos228)

While it may still be best known as the birthplace of the Bluenose and as a vibrant fishing port, in recent years, Lunenburg, N.S., has become a magnet for creative talent.

"I think it's tied to the fact that we're a heritage community," said Mayor Rachel Bailey, noting that a strong tourism industry also gives the town and its artists a boost.

Bailey was in Sydney on Thursday and was asked by organizers of the Growing the Creative Economy Conference to come and share how a town of 2,300 has been making such a success of its artistic and cultural sector.

"We've been looking to build on that," she said.

Diversified economy

Bailey also pointed to the town's diversified economy, which includes traditional fishing and marine-related industries, and a video game development company that employs 80 people, HB Studios.

Ten years ago, the town established a partnership with NSCAD University which has resulted in a further strengthening of the artistic fabric of the community.

Lunenburg Mayor Rachel Bailey spoke at a conference in Sydney on Thursday about what Lunenburg has been doing to become an arts and culture hub. (Hal Higgins/CBC)

The university has a Community Studio Residency program that provides some recent grads with a studio for one year in a number of communities, one of which is in Lunenburg.

"It's an opportunity for them to build their body of work," said Bailey.

She says while the artists are free to move on after the year is up, a number of them have chosen to stay in Lunenburg.

As well, local artists have created an online map featuring Lunenburg's 21 artists and artisans, and their galleries.

Bailey is especially enthusiastic about the latest advancement in the town's cultural quest. Two years ago, the former Lunenburg Academy was repurposed and became the Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance.

"It's a beautiful, iconic building," she said.

Strong leadership

Another recent development, the Lunenburg School for the Arts, is located at the corner of Prince and Montague streets. 

As for what advice she would give to others hoping to learn from Lunenburg's success, Bailey points to strong leadership and a commitment from local people to see it through.

"It requires planting seeds and cultivating them by being champions of it as municipal leaders, and finding other champions in the community," she said.