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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.

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#1 Location: 582 George Street (side of Fired Creations Pottery Painting Café)

Project Name: Spread Your Wings

Artist: David MacAskill (featured in photo)


What was the thought or intention behind your wing design?

I wanted to depict various landmarks in and around Downtown Sydney that residents and visitors would be familiar with and that could be a tourist attraction. I wanted my wing design to be a snapshot of our Downtown. An installation that a visitor could look at and say "I saw that; I was there" a reminder of their visit. The wing design features our Sydney Fire Station No. 1, the historic St. Georges Church, the famous Big Fiddle, the gazebo at Wentworth Park, Sydney Boardwalk and Charlotte Street shops.


Why did you want to participate in this program?

Being a lover and huge proponent of public art, I wanted to seize the opportunity to create a piece of art that would be displayed publicly on a large scale. Art that would reflect the Community and it's surroundings and attract people by its uniqueness.  Having my art as a backdrop for photos and sprucing up public areas to attract tourism to the downtown were huge incentive for me to participate in the project. I love our Downtown and wanted to help promote it.


How does your wing design contribute to the culture of Downtown Sydney?

When I sat down to design my wings, I tried to think of who visits the Downtown core and why.  I kept coming back to places that I love and are quintessential Downtown Sydney. Relaxation and tranquility at Wentworth Park, new architecture seen in the new fire station, the traditions of our Celtic Community depicted by the Big Fiddle, the history of St. George's Church, the oldest church in Cape Breton, a central gathering place on Sydney Boardwalk and new and exciting businesses opening on Charlotte Street.  For me, these represent our Downtown for visitors and locals alike and emotes the vibe of our Downtown Community.


Additional information:

I have sold my paintings at IODE shows, Pierscapes Art Festival, online and to friends and family both in Canada and in the United States.  I was the featured artist at Pierscapes Art Festival in 2019 and also created watercolor illustrations for the launch of a series of floral seed packets that celebrate the gardens of Mabel Bell at Beinn Bhreagh in Baddeck. The series of six seed packets was launched in the Summer of 2019 by the Alexander Graham Bell Museum Association. I have a studio at Eltuek Arts Centre my work can be viewed at and also I can be contacted at

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#2 Location: 50 Falmouth Street (Cape Breton Regional Library)

Project Name: Spread Your Wings

Artist: Fern Donovan


What was the thought or intention behind your wing design?

The intention behind my wing design was primarily in reference to, and appreciation of the Cape Breton Regional Library and their Sydney branch downtown.

Why did you want to participate in this program?

I love seeing art projects like this in my community, so I like to support them when I can by participating!

#3 Location: 154 Bentinck Street

Project Name: Checking the Traps & The Lifesaver

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 offerings, but it also noticeable from surrounding areas and adds to the downtown experience and speaks of the island culture.

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#4 Location: 107 Bentinck Street (back side of YMCA of Cape Breton)

Project Name: Spread Your Wings

Artist: Steven Rolls


What was the thought or intention behind your wing design?

Much of my adult life and creative thinking is based on some of the wonderful stories I encountered as a youth, both in books and in play. I wanted to create wings that had their own story or encouraged visitors to make up a story of their own.

Why did you want to participate in this program?

I work downtown and live within a few minutes walk of it. Because of this, I spend a lot of time in and around the downtown area. I wanted to inject a piece of me into it and what better way than with the inclusion of more art.

How does your wing design contribute to the culture of Downtown Sydney?

I have always seen Sydney and Cape Breton as a creative place where everyone has a story. My dragon wings were particularly designed to encourage residents to hold on to the magic that is childhood and the imagination that we often let go of as adults.

Additional information:

Stay young and play often!

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#5 Location: 14 Wentworth Street

Artist: Isaac Gould

Background: This fish mural was created by one of Sydney Downtown Development Association's summer students in 2019. Isaac collaborated with the business owner to create a piece of art that would enhance the Downtown experience and culture, and compliment the business (formerly the Cape Breton Fish and Marine Supplies).

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#6 Location: 320 Esplanade (beside City Hall)

Artist: Bailee Higgins

Project Name: Spread Your Wings


What was the thought or intention behind your wing design?

Using the geography of Unama’ki (Cape Breton Island) as inspiration, the wing design draws on the land and sea around us.

Why did you want to participate in this program?

Public art is so important. It is care and placemaking and can foster pride in place and is open for everyone to enjoy!

How does your wing design contribute to the culture of Downtown Sydney?

Downtown Sydney is growing and it is one of the best times to participate in the arts! New centres and shops selling work are popping up - so I love to see the increased public appreciation for the arts and make the community more vibrant!

Additional information: 

Bailee Higgins is an artist and art educator from Sydney Mines who is inspired by the land, skies and seas of Unama’ki. Higgins uses bright vibrant colours to capture the essence and feeling of a place.

#7 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!


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#8 Location: 246 Esplanade

Artists: Designed by Don Smith, sculpted by David Clendining


This thought-provoking piece honors the legacy of the heroic men who sailed away from the Port of Sydney to help the war effort in World War II ; many would never return. The monument depicts four men on a “board and barrel” raft hoping to get the attention of a passing ship to be rescued from the cold North Atlantic waters after their own ship had sunk. 

The initial design was done by Don Smith (Owner/Principal Consultant at The Phoenix Consultancy) of White Point, Nova Scotia. For over 30 years Don has worked on museum quality exhibit planning and designs all across Canada and the US. He specializes in military themed projects such as The Calgary Air Force Museum, Battle of the Atlantic Exhibit for the Naval Museum of Alberta, Comox Air Force Museum, Shearwater Aviation Museum. The Cape Breton Regional Municipality and Smith worked very closely with the local Merchant Mariner veterans to finalize the concept.

David Clendining (Owner/Founder Summit Studios Inc.) from Ottawa who had worked with Don on many museum projects, began the task of sculpting the 4 figures. Dave took his models to a foundry in China, where they were scanned, cast in bronze and then, fittingly, made their own voyage across the ocean to be installed on the Sydney boardwalk.

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#9 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. 

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#10 Location: 197 Esplanade (Desbarres Park)

Background: More information coming soon!

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#11 Location: 50 Dorchester Street

Artist: Katelyn McPherson

Project Name: Spread Your Wings


What was the thought or intention behind your wing design?

Through my design, I aim to spotlight Cape Breton's diverse wildlife. By doing so, I want to raise awareness about wildlife conservation, safeguarding not only the island's breathtaking beauty but also the number of precious animals that call it home.

Why did you want to participate in this program?

I am passionate towards bringing more colour and art into the downtown to help foster a more vibrant cultural identity for Sydney. I firmly believe that public art can create an engaging and inspiring environment, leaving a lasting impact on residents and visitors.

How does your wing design contribute to the culture of Downtown Sydney?

My wing design aims to revitalize Downtown Sydney's culture with bright, energizing colours, and captivating images. The vibrant colours resonate with Sydney's progressive growth, infusing the cityscape with excitement.

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#12 Location: 300 George Street (Revive Salon & Spa)

Artist: Robyn Martelly (featured in photo)

Project Name: Spread Your Wings


What was the thought or intention behind your wing design?

My butterfly represents beauty, creativity, and diversity. It reflects my community (Whitney Pier) and my African-Caribbean ancestry. The upper wings represent (Land and Sea), the multi-color triangles represent diversity, the flowers represent the natural beauty of Cape Breton and the African symbol in the bottom wings represents creativity.


Why did you want to participate in this program?

I wanted to participate in this program because I thought it was a cool idea, I love street art, and I wanted to represent Whitney Pier. I also wanted to showcase my artwork, gain more exposure, and inspire kids from my community.


How does your wing design contribute to the culture of Downtown Sydney?

My wing design contributes to the culture of Downtown Sydney because my wings are a representation of the overall culture. Community-focused, creative, diverse, friendly, local, proud, vibrant, and welcoming.

Additional information:

Robyn Martelly is from Sydney, NS and was raised in the multicultural community of Whitney Pier. Robyn is a visual artist, contributing author, poet, and former columnist. Her work has been published online, in various magazines and broadcast on air. Robyn is releasing her debut children's book Ladybug Blues, in the Summer of 2023. 



#13 Location: 300 George Street  (side of Revive Salon & Spa)

Artist: Isaac Gould

Background: This funky lady was created by one of Sydney Downtown Development Association'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. 

#14 Location: 75 Prince Street

Project Name: Reconciliation

Artists: Loretta Gould & Peter Steele

Background:  A project of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, 

the intent of the mural is to express the importance of reconciliation of the colonialization of our nation’s indigenous peoples, and to inspire a thoughtful and meaningful process between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians with a design developed by both an indigenous and non-indigenous artist.

Using elements of Mi’kmaq culture, the mural shows the importance of friendly and constructive dialogue between non-indigenous people and our First Nations people.


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#15 Location: 46 Bentinck Street

Artist: Kayla Cormier

Background: Located on the side of the hall next to the Highland Arts Theatre (HAT), each mural immortalizes some of the more iconic characters and actors from past shows at the theatre. Not all of these characters painted are from the same show, but they are all interacting with one another in some way that really brings their personalities to life. The characters are also painted in the costumes they would have worn on stage. Together the murals are a celebration of all that they do at the Highland Arts Theatre.

Some of the characters depicted include the following (in no particular order): (Rory Andrews) dancing in his iconic way from Dream: A Midsummer Musical which was the first of four musical Shakespeare adaptations by Wesley Colford.


The Wakowski Brothers (Ron Newcombe and George MacKenzie) from The Wakowsi Brothers, also written by Wesley Colford, which was a vaudeville show full of slapstick humour, and served as the very first production at the theatre.


Alice (Rachael Murphy) from Alice in Wonderland who is falling down the rabbit hole but about to be saved by Leaf (Ciaran MacGillivray) from 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

#16 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.

#17 & 18 Location: Charlotte Street (between 275 & 295)

Artist: Allan Ryan

Background:  The following two murals were commissioned by the Highland Arts Theatre in 2017. It features characters from the original casts of two Highland Arts Theatre original musicals - Heart of Steel (2015) and The Return of the Cape Breton Liberation Army (2017) .

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!

#19 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!

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