In a year-and-a-half a lot has changed at a certain site on the Pubnico Harbour in West Pubnico, Nova Scotia. What started as a vision has blossomed into an exciting reality. The CRE8 Arts Centre Ltd. is a full-fledged arts centre, guest house and performance venue: We caught up with Marla Niekamp, who co-owns the arts centre with her husband Walter, and Alexandra Rodgerson, CRE8’s president, to find out what’s been going on at their picturesque location on the Acadian Shore.
Since we caught up with you back in the fall of 2013, a lot has happened! How did your vision become a reality?
Marla: We incorporated our wee business, in anticipation of some real sudden growth spurts. Once people started finding out what we're doing and why, most responded quite favourably, and even with some excitement. We understood we had to establish a diversity of offerings and income opportunities. It can be very difficult, near impossible, to maintain the operating costs of an art centre, strictly with music.
Alexandra and I spent many hours defining 'art'. We've come to the conclusion that artistic abilities are expressed in such a wide variety of ways, we simply had to be available to provide an opportunity for people in our new home to express themselves. And to earn an income from their passion.
We were so pleased when The 'Ivany Commission Report' came out. We found the suggestions and recommendations found in this report mirrored our approach to economic development in a rural setting. Simply put, we all (small businesses) do better when we work together, rather than compete. Walter and I moved from an area of Winnipeg known for its commitment to community. It's a way of life we're comfortable in and are working hard to familiarize others with the concept. For that reason, we are introducing products and services that don't take business away from our neighbours.
Once Walter and I were comfortable with the concept of 'having enough' for our old age, we decided we wanted to invest in Pubnico and those who welcomed us so warmly, and we wanted to invest in Alexandra. Her pipes are something else. Honestly. I'm going to let Alexandra the chance to talk. [laughs] She has to tell you about the adventure she's been on, from waitress to our President. She co-ordinates and confirms ALL concerts. She keeps our virtual presence live, posting regularly to Facebook, Twitter, etc. She researches, finds & co-ordinates contact data for the marketing side of our business. She does follow up client contact such as getting artwork, preparing & sending invoices, etc. She even cleans the Guest House!
Alexandra: I am so blessed to be able to be a part of this amazing company. CRE8 has
I have 20 vocal students and I have been helping one of my students who is teaching beginner guitar and she now has 11 students! The interest in music and art is all around our province and I plan to meet as many artists and artisans and work with them in any way I can. I am booking all the concerts and interacting with all the performers, building my portfolio at the same time. Our Harbour Lights Concerts have begun for 2015 and we are getting excited for the Harbour Lights Concert Series. CRE8 has a lot of artists contacting them to be a part of our shows and more and more people are seeing what we are trying to do.
I am the lead singer in our band Alumin8. The band members are all fishermen from Pubnico and together we make great music. We are currently recording our first album which will be released this summer. I also do all the booking for Alumin8 and we are booking fast for this coming summer. It’s all so exciting!
What's the Harbour Lights Concert Series?
Alexandra: Our Harbour Lights Concert Series features local and regional singers, bands and performers of all genres. Last year CRE8 did two concerts a week and had many different performers, some from here, some from Halifax. This year we have been getting so much interest we may have to add on dates but our original plan is to have the concerts at Ye Olde Argyler once a month; and in June to September to have them at CRE8’s outdoor venue (with a rain location at the Argyler). Our concerts go from 7 to 10pm and are open to all ages. I usually get my vocal students to do a show throughout the series. We are so excited for this summer: our Harbour Lights Concert Series is going to be well worth coming to see!
Tell us a little bit more about the Partners involved with CRE8’S Guest House, facilities and events.
Marla: We partnered with Stephanie d'Entrement, owner of A Touch of S.A.S., which specializes in interior design and event planning. Stephanie designed, supplied & created the amazing Guest House décor for the DestinationWedding video. She is our go-to person when guests want themed visits, parties & weddings.
We partnered with Michelle Doucette, owner of Squishy Mishy Cakes, a home cake baker/decorator. She is our go-to person for birthday, wedding, anniversary & themed cakes.
We partnered with Ruth Parker, owner of Land's End Bakery, a pioneering family who lives down the road. Ruth provides fresh eggs and freshly baked muffins, biscuits, croissants, and breads for our guests ordering a stunning continental breakfast tray.
We partnered with Ken D'Eon, another neighbour. Ken owns and operates Ken's Mobile DJ and Karaoke Services. He's a character (in a very good way) and you should chat him up too! Ken provided CRE8 with amps and lights suited to our amazing outdoor venue. Honestly, it was like being at a 'real' concert!
We partnered with Weez Colburn, owner of Carino Confections. Best-Homemade-Chocolate-Ever! And, I've been to Europe! [laughs]
We partnered with Ye Olde Argyler Inn who is providing an indoor venue, allowing The Harbour Lights Concert Series to start in February this year. They'll also provide a 'bad weather' venue during the outdoor season, as well as food services during our outdoor events.
And like Alexandra said, we partnered with the band Alumin8!
You'll find links on our website to learn more about Our Partners.
Alexandra, what have been some highlights for you as President of CRE8?
Alexandra: I have had many highlights as president of CRE8. I have been the booking agent for CRE8 and also Alumin8, I have been teaching students vocal skills such as vocal control, pitch, and we have also started songwriting. I have also started helping Walter in the marketing department contacting the people for ads and the computer work. It’s been amazing to have learned all these jobs and continue to take more on and learn as much as possible to make CRE8 work for years to come.
What other programs has Cre8 been offering?
CRE8 offers the following programs;
- Vocal Coaching - Alexandra Rodgerson
- Beginner Guitar - Nadia Chetwynd
- Ukulele Lessons - Nigel ’Eon
- Harbour Light Concert Series - CRE8 team
- Spring / Winter Showcases - Alexandra Rodgerson
- Karaoke / Dance parties (birthdays, retirement, girls nights, etc.)
- Luxurious Guest House overlooking the harbour at very reasonable rates
- And amazing Wedding packages for that special day
What are some plans for the future?
Marla: We're exploring options to allow for expansion of space and services. Both the arts & the marketing side have grown too big for the little barn that could!
Anything to add?
Marla: Please let people know they can become a 'Patron' of CRE8 for $100/year. This buys you free concerts for the year and a 10% rebate on a guest house booking. Theycan reference 'Arts East' when they book through AirBNB.
All service providers set the 'price' for their own service. All services, including performers, are assessed a 30% fee, or have a fee added to their price, to keep the art centre going.
CRE8 provides services at a cost that's accessible to families of almost every means and provides the venue to offer the service. In addition, we promote each other through a variety of virtual means.