Welcome to Downtown Sydney's self-guided walking tour of our art and cultural installations! We hope you enjoy it as much as we do. We encourage you to take lots of pictures, and we would love for you to tag us on Facebook and Instagram @DowntownSydney so we can see all the great memories being made in our little piece of beautiful Cape Breton Island - Unama'ki.
Location: 48 Prince Street
Artist: Jordan Bennett
Background: Funded by Arts NS for the 2016 Lumiere Art at Night Festival, this mural located on the side of the former Crowell's building was artist Jordan Bennett's first mural. Bennett is a multi-disciplinary artist from Newfoundland, whose work revolves around his proud aboriginal heritage, bringing traditional Beothuk and Mi'kmaq art into contemporary discourse. The beautiful abstract piece was based on quillwork from Unama'ki.
Location: 270 Charlotte Street
Artist: Allan Ryan
Background: The underwater themed mural located at 270 Charlotte Street is one that can't be missed! It was commissioned by SDDA as part of the 2017 Summer Street Festival, and completed by well known Toronto-based muralist Allan Ryan, originally from North Sydney. The theme was selected because it connects to the fact that Downtown Sydney is located on our beautiful waterfront. The artist's family also has a history of scuba diving!
Location: Charlotte Street (between 275 & 295)
Artist: Allan Ryan
Background: These two murals were commissioned by the Highland Arts Theatre just as the Underwater mural was being finished in 2017. It features characters from the original casts of two Highland Arts Theatre original musicals, The Return of the Cape Breton Liberation Army (2017) and Heart of Steel (2015).
The photo used for reference for Heart of Steel was by Chris Walzak. The actors that inspired the likenesses are Margaret MacPherson, Kristen Woodford, Maureen MacAdam, and Hilary Scott (Heart of Steel) and Frank McKibbon as the CBLA General.
The image that inspired the CBLA General was created by Paul MacKinnon and was based on a photograph taken by Jess Hardy of local actor Frank McKibbon. The dog in the bottom left corner is the artist's dog, Hubble!
Location: 300 George Street
Artist: Isaac Gould
Background: This funky lady was created by one of SDDA's 2019 summer students, Isaac. Located on the side of Revive Hair Studio and Spa Inc., Isaac collaborated with the business owner to create a piece of art that would enhance the Downtown experience and culture, and compliment the hair studio.
Location: 75 Prince Street
Artist: Loretta Gould & Peter Steele
Background: This beautiful mural is located on Prince Street, and is a product of the Downtown Sydney Regeneration Project. It is themed around Etuaptmumk, a word that means "two eyed seeing" in the Mi'kmaq language. The mural stresses the understanding and learning from two perspectives - from the non- Indigenous and the Indigenous.
Location: 46 Bentinck Street
Artist: Kayla Cormier
Background: Located on the side of the hall next to the Highland Arts Theatre, each mural immortalizes some of the more iconic characters and actors from past shows at the theatre.
Location: 312 Esplanade
Artist: Isaac Gould
Background: This mural was the final piece of a summer art project. Sydney Downtown Development Association hired Isaac Gould, a young Indigenous artist, for the summer and he was given the freedom to create his own piece. This is Cape Breton Island from the eyes of the artist.
Location: 154 Bentinck Street
Artist: Peter Steele
Background: This fisherman mural is one of Sydney's newest murals. It was a part of Sydney Downtown Development Association's Project: Makeover Downtown Sydney 2022/2023 grant program. The artist worked with the property owner and business (Cape Breton Fish & Marine Supply) to create a piece of art that not only is reflective of the business's offerings, but also adds to the downtown experience and speaks to the island's culture.
Location: Sydney Boardwalk (near City Hall & Cambridge Suites Hotel)
Background: These five foot tall block letters are located on our beautiful boardwalk, and was part of the "Rediscover Main Streets" initiative through ACOA. The Sydney Downtown Development Association (SDDA) was excited to to be able to execute such a special landmark project using all local vendors! The letters were installed in November of 2022 and we invite you to stop by, take a photo, and share with the world. We spell SYDNEY with pride!
Location: Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion
Artist: Cyril Hearn
Background: Nothing is more symbolic of Cape Breton’s cultural heritage; nothing speaks better of the musical delights within our Island – hence a 55-foot-tall fiddle symbolizing our musical tradition. The fiddle is 20 times larger than a standard fiddle; the fiddle measuring 42’4” and the bow is 52’4”. It is raised 3 feet off the ground and is the world’s largest fiddle.
Cyril Hearn of Cape Breton Fabricators made the fiddle of welded 3/16 steel plate. It weighs more than 10 tons. The body is nearly 15 feet wide and 25 feet tall. The fiddle strings and bow are also made to accurate scale in stainless steel aircraft cable. People come into Sydney from all over to view this amazing instrument and admire the workmanship and skill required to put it together. The construction of the fiddle was videotaped at all stages, and the footage plays regularly in the Lighthouse Theatre for the benefit of our visitors and tourists.
Following consultations with Hector McNeil, a professor of Gaelic studies at UCCB, a name for the fiddle was selected. The Gaelic word Ceilidh has as its original meaning “visit” – the common usage though is a visit, usually with music and entertainment. The Corporation thought it appropriate that this icon carry a name that reflects these connections; hence, the name FIDHEAL MHÒR A’ CHÈILIDH© or THE BIG CEILIDH FIDDLE©.
It was further determined that THE BIG CEILIDH FIDDLE be commissioned or “tuned” at its naming ceremony with a dedicated medley. A local musician, Kinnon Beaton, was asked to compose the Sydney Ports medley. It consists of a march, a strathspey, and a reel. The Corporation decided to name these tunes in honour of people from the community who were involved in the early efforts of developing cruise ship activity at Sydney.