Creative Connections Symposium 2023

Click here to register for the Creative Connections Symposium.

CBU’s Creative Campus and The Atlantic Centre for Creativity presents
Creative Connections Symposium
September 23, 2023
CBU Campus, Yvonne LeVert Suite

Cape Breton University’s Creative Campus in partnership with the Atlantic Centre for Creativity will host a one-day Creativity Connections Symposium on September 23, 2023, at Cape Breton University. The full-day event will bring together the topics of Health and Well-Being, Sustainability, the Creative Eco-System and the Creative Economy.

How does creativity affect our health and well-being? How can we deal with issues of climate justice and environmental sustainability through creative practice? How do we build a creative ecosystem to support a creative economy?

The Symposium will hear from 11 panelists, along with 60 to 70 guests, as they tackle these questions through practical and theoretical analysis. The Symposium is open to everyone interested in the power of Creativity.

Creative Connections Symposium:
Linking Mind and Body in Unama’ki Schedule


Date Time Topic / Activity Speaker(s) Location
Sept. 22 6:00pm to 9:00pm Reception Pit Lounge
Sept. 23 8:30am to 9:00am Breakfast Yvonne Levert Room for all presentations
9:00am to 9:15am Opening Remarks
9:15am to 10:15am Health & Well Being Mi’kmaw Music, Creativity, Community and Wellbeing (Interactive Session) Sons of Membertou
10:15am to 10:30am Break
10:30am to 11:45am Sustainability Creative Responses to Sustainability; Engaging with Complex Issues through Expression and Culture (Panel Discussion) Nancy Oakley
Angie Arsenault
Marcia Ostashewski
Dale Ritchie
11:45am to 12:30pm Lunch
12:30pm to 1:30pm Health & Well Being Creativity and the Moving Body (Interactive Session) Allison Jeffery
1:30pm to 2:45pm Eco System Building a Creative Ecosystem (Panel Discussion) Tara Johnson
Nelson MacDonald
Carmel Farahbakhsh
2:45pm to 3:00pm Break
3:00pm to 4:00pm Entrepreneurship Design Thinking: Navigating from Ideas to Reality (Interactive Session) Matthew Swan
Kim Desveaux
Dr. Matthias Bierenstiel
4:00pm to 4:15pm Closing Remarks


Cape Breton University
1250, Grandlake Road
Sydney, Nova Scotia
B1M 1A2

Opening Reception – September 22 – 6 to 9pm (Pit Lounge)
Creative Connections Symposium – September 23 – 8:30am to 4:00pm (Yvonne LeVert Room)

Abstracts and Bios

Mi’kmaw Music, Creativity, Community and Wellbeing

This session features the Sons of Membertou, an acclaimed local Mi’kmaw drum group. Many of the musicians are respected traditional knowledge holders as well as award-winning researchers. Their presentation is grounded in their interest in sharing Indigenous perspectives and Mi’kmaw music, and discussions of how their musical practice has helped them learn, sustain and share Mi’kmaw language as part of fostering and facilitating health and wellbeing in their community – and for First Peoples more broadly. This session involves workshop components: guided by the musicians, participants will, together, learn, sing, and drum
Mi’kmaw music and language. It also contributes to reconciliation and decolonization, as the esteemed presenters promote Indigenous creativity and perspectives on their own terms.


Sons of Membertou

In 1992, Sons of Membertou began as small group of Mi’kmaq people who wanted to share their culture through music, drumming and dance both nationally and internationally. In 2022, they marked their 30th year of finding identity and shared experiences with others.
Their popularity has grown immensely over the last three decades. So much so , that in 2017, the group went to Vimy Ridge to commemorate its 100th anniversary.
Cape Bretons “Celtic Colours” has requested their abundant talent at this year’s festivities.
Cape Breton University named the Sons of Membertou as the 2022 Artist in Residence. Over a four-month term, the group held many sessions of sharing and growing the culture, music, drumming and creativity that embodies the history of the Mi’kmaq people.

For more information :

Creativity and the Moving Body

In this session, we will explore breathwork patterns and movement sequences to discover new possibilities for being creative that incorporate the body as a continually arriving experience. Inspired by the philosophy of posthumanism, these patterns invite practitioners to experience their moving bodies as creative phenomena that allow each individual to explore movement in ways that are suited to their own unique experience. This session will be catered to all abilities and will be led by Allison Jeffrey, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Experiential Studies of Community and Sport at CBU whose research focuses on post-structural analyses of moving bodies in dance and yoga.


Allison Jeffery, PH.D. Cape Breton University

Assistant professor of Community Studies, (sport and physical activity) Allison is involved with “well-being and movement through the theoretical lens of posthumanism”. In 2017, She completed her PHD in “Feminist Sport Sociology” from the university of Waikato, New Zealand. Allison’s work has included “women’s experiences of dance and movement, women’s lived experiences with contemporary Yoga lifestyles, and building and implementing a “Positive Mindfulness Program”. ( 400 participants) Teaching a music and physical education curriculum in Canada and the United Kingdom for more than 10 years, Allison is also an experienced practitioner of Yoga as meditation and movement for both private and institutional studios.

Link to Dr. Jeffery’s 12 publications:

Creative Responses to Sustainability; Engaging with Complex Issues through Expression and Culture

This panel will provide space for the creative exploration of artistic, practical, theoretic, and visionary approaches towards sustainability. Panelists will lead participants in sessions to tap into the world-making and imaginative power of the arts to be cultivated in search of innovative solutions for change. The time will provide panelists and participants to connect with each other over issues of climate justice and environmental sustainability through creative practice.


Angie Arsenault

Angie is an artist and researcher from the ‘deindustrialized” island of Cape Breton. Her art and research use memory, material, culture and storytelling to magnify life in and around the “ruination” of the island. Angie received both the SSRHC and the Governor General Academic gold medal for her thesis work entitled “Keeper of Industrial Memory”, and is currently enrolled in the HUMA PhD program at Concordia University.

For more information:

Nancy Oakley

Nancy is a First Nations artist of Mi’Kmaw and Wampanoag decent. Raised in Massachusetts, Nancy moved to her Mother’s community of Eskasoni, Cape Breton. She attended the American Indian Arts in New Mexico, and NSCAD.( Nova Scotia College of Art and Design). She has been crafting for her own business more than 20 years. Nancy’s love of pottery is evident in her smoke fired and stone polished creations. She is also an accomplished bead worker. Nancy lives and works in Eskasoni, Cape Breton.

For more information about Nancy:

Marcia Ostashewski

Dr.Marcia Ostashewski is a professor at Cape Breton University. Marcia teaches several topics including the dance and music of Indigenous and immigrant communities, gender and performance, culture and tourism. Dr. Ostashewski specializes in movement and sound.
As a Canada Research Chair, Marcia facilitates her commitment with a wide variety of experts and laypersons on several continents, with whom she conducts critical scholarly inquiry.
Marcia also creates and co-produces digital media projects that look at community issues and social challenges.
Dr.Ostashewski is frequently asked to speak and present at academic and non-academic colloquiums.

For more information about Dr. Ostashewski-

Dale Ritchie

Dale Ritchie has been president and owner of McKenzie College for 23 years. McKenzie College is based in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
With a Bachelor in Commerce and a Masters in Computer Science, Dale has a wide range of interests and expertise; from creative interests to business, entrepreneurship to leadership. President Ritchie has led McKenzie College to be one of Atlantic Canada’s most deeply respected post-secondary institutions.
As an artist, he knows how valuable creativity can be in bringing out a student’s potential.
Mr. Ritchie has served on three University boards; St. Mary’s Rotary Club, the Saint John Boys and Girls Club, and the Capital Theater Board in Moncton, N.B. Mr. Ritchie has many more highly acclaimed accolades to his credit.

For more information on Dale Ritchie-

Building a Creative Ecosystem

Conversations around the arts in Unama’ki / Cape Breton, invariably focus upon the idea of building a creative economy. But before one can establish a foundation for the arts to thrive as part of a regional economy, it is necessary to explore, understand and attend to the conditions that allow artists / creatives to thrive in the first place. What inspires artists to live, create and work together? What is it that stimulates a creative community to grow in vision and numbers? The answers to these questions are not simple though they surely transcend the basic requirements of available working and living spaces together with the availability of platforms that allow for wage generation and financial supports (galleries, local businesses, funding agencies, etc.).
This session proposes an exploration of these questions, inviting diverse perspectives from artists and arts administrators to open discussion on what is needed to nurture the conditions for creative community growth in Unama’ki / Cape Breton and comparable regions across Atlantic Canada.


Tara Johnson

Tara Johnson (she / her) is the Mi’kmaq Resource Centre (MRC) Coordinator and Research Assistant at Cape Breton University. Her work entails assisting students and researchers in locating sources on indigenous topics, as the MRC hosts a variety of different materials, both archival and non-archival. Tara completed her BA at CBU in 2021 with a double major in History and Mi’kmaq Studies. She is also a traditional beader, and creates a variety of different types of Mi’kmaq beadwork. Tara is L’nu, (meaning Mi’kmaq) from Potlotek First Nation. She is currently working towards completing her master’s (MBA) at Cape Breton University.

Nelson MacDonald

Nelson MacDonald (he / him) is an artist from New Waterford, Nova Scotia. He makes nonfiction works on small gauge film about the people, rituals, and landscape of his home community. Nelson’s 2016 film, There Lived the Colliers, about the wooden duplexes built to house coal miners in his hometown, premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. His short film, Edges, shot along the Louisbourg coastline, can be viewed on permanent display at the Eltuek Arts Centre in Sydney. Nelson is currently documenting the murder of crows that surrounds his apartment each night and finishing a short about his friend the octogenarian folk artist, Murray Gallant.

Carmel Farahbakhsh

Carmel Farahbakhsh (they/them) is a community educator, arts maker, and youth worker. They have collaborated on the Khyber Centre for the Arts board for four years, and are enjoying their new position as co-director of local music festival EVERYSEEKER. In 2020, they transitioned from a five-year term coordinating South House Sexual and Gender Resource Centre to working as the Executive Director at the Youth Project, seeing a direct link between this community work and access to creative spaces and the arts community. As the Executive Director of the Youth Project, Carmel holds a youth-centric approach to organizational movement and support. Carmel builds their vision from their community education background and aims to apply an anti-racist and trauma-informed framework to their work. They also collaborate and organize with local initiatives, artist-run-centres, and community partners with an aim to create wider 2SQTBIPOC community and support systems within the province.

For more information:



Design Thinking: Navigating from Ideas to Reality

This panel will provide insights on exploring the first step of design thinking. Each of us have creativity that is waiting to be discovered and needs nurturing to move from the idea stage to growth and development. With new technology and growing infinite options, it is hard to focus on this goal. Panelists will lead participants to tap into the imaginative power of design thinking and creativity. During the session, panelists and participants will connect with each other over the design thinking process through creative practice.


Matthew Swan

Matthew Swan is the director of the Sydney Makerspace.

Kim Desveaux

Regional Development Manager, Cape Breton – CEED

Dr. Matthias Bierenstiel

is a Professor of Chemistry at Cape Breton University
Founder of Maskwiomin (

Registration Information

To register for the symposium, please visit
$65.00 general, plus service fees
$25.00 students, plus service fees
Financial assistance available upon request.

Host Bio

Cape Breton University

If you’ve truly experienced the community surrounding and supporting Cape Breton University, you would agree there is no community quite like it. There is no community more welcoming, ripe for discovery, or more driven by creativity and innovation. It’s truly our pleasure to welcome you to the diverse, thriving campus of CBU.

Atlantic Centre for Creativity

The Atlantic Centre for Creativity was established to support and advance research, teaching, and learning. It promotes all forms of creativity, including problem solving, innovation, and entrepreneurship.