History of the Chester Art Centre
The genesis for the Chester Art Centre began with a street Art Fair and Sale organized and supported by Chester volunteers and residents. More than twenty-five local artists and artisans “set up shop” on the village main street and, to the accompaniment of strolling musicians, sold their wares to the large number of enthusiastic attendees. The spark had been struck; the merchant community bought-in. Clearly there was both the need and the demand for encouraging and expanding the arts in general. The original organizers seized the initiative and quickly formalized their association. No sooner were plans for the next season being made than a local supporter and patron stepped forward and offered a suitable building in the centre of the village, the home of what has quickly become known as the Chester Art Centre.
The original Centre, a compact former residence was opened in April 2007. The Centre offers a varied and experiential range of classes and workshops for children and adults. In the spring of 2013 a small committee of the Board of the Chester Art Centre began working on an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to permanently secure the Art Centre property, which sits on a double lot on Queen Street, Chester. About 8 years ago, Sir Christopher Ondaatje generously acquired this location and provided a nominal year lease arrangement so that the Chester Art Centre could get started and have a home. He advised the organization that if the Centre raised matching funds he would give us the deeds to the properties and thereby secure a permanent operating location for the Centre. Upon hearing of our success in raising these funds, and knowing how the community came out to support our campaign, he generously donated the property to the Centre and advised us to use the money raised for renovations and upgrades to the facility. We then sought funding from Federal, Provincial and Municipal Government Agencies and were successful. The additional funds allowed us to renovate and expand our building. The upgrades enable a more effective use of space for larger classes and lecture attendance. Architecturally, the renovation and new expansion reflect traditional Chester design features in character with the community.
The role in supporting Nova Scotia’s cultural community
The Centre provides a forum for celebrating and promoting awareness for the arts being created in the Municipality of Chester by full-time and part-time residents. The area is home to many locally, nationally and internationally renowned artists year round and in the summer months. The Centre provides opportunities for their work to be promoted and exhibited for the public. Our educational art programming helps to promote the area as an art centre, by providing opportunities for local and guest artists to interact with and share skills and knowledge with a cross generation of residents. This in turn, expands audiences for art generally and helps to develop emerging artists within the community – all of which makes a significant contribution to the growth of the Chester area as a bustling art centre.