cSPACE
Eau Claire Opens

New Neighbourhood Hub at cSPACE Eau Claire Opens to the Public

Above: large image: Elder Eldon Weasel Child. Top row left to right: Kenna Burima, Deeter Schurig speaks to the media.  Bottom row left to right: Councillor Terry Wong, Calgary’s Poet Laureate for 2022 Wakefield Brewster

On Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, cSPACE Projects launched cSPACE Eau Claire as a neighbourhood hub. cSPACE was established as a non-profit enterprise to develop a portfolio of community-based hubs for the creative and cultural sector to thrive across Calgary. Our mission is to develop creative places that support Calgary’s talent pipeline. 

This marks the second creative hub managed by cSPACE Projects. cSPACE’s first flagship project, the redevelopment of the former King Edward School in Marda Loop, sets an example of successful stewardship of historical assets within a context of creative placemaking. 

The original Eau Claire Lumber Building, familiar to most Calgarians as the former 1886 cafe, was the second office built by the Eau Claire Lumber Mill, in 1903. It is now recognized as an important historic asset for our city. Despite its small footprint, its collective aspirations are much larger. The lumber building sits within a Downtown Strategy for revitalization and so the City of Calgary is joining forces with cSPACE Projects to activate the space over the next two years. 

The lumber building has been temporarily moved from its original foundation to make way for flood mitigation construction in Eau Claire. It will eventually be returned as part of the plaza’s redesign. Meanwhile, the building has been reimagined as a neighbourhood hub where artists, cultural, and under-served community groups without space can gather and create.

“I put forward that [the development of cSPACE Eau Claire] lives within a shared vision for our city, one that is creative, one that is vibrant, and one that is vital.” 

— Deeter Schurig, President & CEO of cSPACE Projects.

cSPACE is thrilled to collaborate alongside community partners and Calgary’s creative talent to realize this vision. cSPACE is committed to improving the conditions for artists, arts and culture nonprofits and creative entrepreneurs. This is a goal that benefits both artists and the community as a whole.

A blessing from Eldon Weasel Child

To begin the launch event, Elder Eldon Weasel Child from Siksika was invited up to lead a smudge and blessing. Using a drum that was gifted to him by the Blackfoot Confederacy Chiefs, Eldon Weasel Child sang a blessing, and shared stories that illustrated this building’s unique connection with indigenous history and also the arts. 

He spoke of how the Blackfoot people used to barter and bargain down at the Eau Claire lumber mill office. How he grew up hearing stories from his mother and grandmother about how logs were floated along the Bow River from the timber limit at Castle Mountain down to the mill. In a poetic full circle, Weasel Child related how the smudge he used for the blessing came from the same high Alpine forest that his mother and grandmother used to tell stories about. 

Eldon Weasel Child then related how powerfully the arts are connected to Indigenous culture. How storytellers have always been important members of the community. Storytellers keep the knowledge of a community alive, and the arts provide a creative outlet for all emotions. 

“To come back full circle, and stand in a building that Blackfoot people used to come into to barter and bargain on wood products is simply amazing.” 

“I thank you all for keeping the arts alive.”

— Eldon Weaselchild

A creative vision for the Calgary’s future

Deeter Schurig, President & CEO of cSPACE Projects welcomed all to the event. Mr. Schurig stressed that as cSPACE begins to activate the Eau Claire Neighbourhood Hub, they will lean into lessons learnt. He spoke eloquently about how cSPACE looks forward to connecting with arts, culture and community groups to open this space to the public, with programming and events. Later this year, cSPACE will also put out artist calls for residencies. The new neighbourhood hub will give artists space to develop their work, as well as providing a new and unique opportunity for the community to host presentations, exhibitions, performances, and more.

Councillor Terry Wong from Ward 7

Next to speak was Councillor Terry Wong from Ward 7 who shared his perspective on the state of the city’s downtown, and the role of arts and culture in our city. Councillor Wong has been tireless in his service to the city and his desire to support the vibrancy of arts and culture here in Calgary. He spoke passionately about how settlers continue to come to this area, sharing stories, arts, and culture. 

“We take a look at Calgary, we’ll take a look at history, heritage, and we take a look at arts and culture—it’s in all of us. If we don’t remember that, if we don’t share that, we lose that.”

— Councillor Terry Wong, Ward 7

Thom Mahler, Director of Downtown Strategy

Following Councillor Wong, Thom Mahler spoke about the Downtown Redevelopment Plan and the City’s intent for the Eau Claire Lumber Building. Mr. Mahler has been key to establishing a bold direction to enliven our downtown in partnership with diverse groups.    

“Downtown reinvention cannot happen unless everyone who has an interest in downtown’s future and success grows together in the same direction, and the Eau Claire Neighbourhood Hub is a prime example of this.”

— Thom Mahler, Director of Downtown Strategy for the City of Calgary

Susan Veres, Board Director, cSPACE Projects

Following Councillor Wong, Mr. Schurig introduced cSPACE Board Director Susan Veres to say a few words. With extensive experience in land development, placemaking and volunteering in the nonprofit arts and culture sector, Ms. Veres brought tremendous insight into the importance of activating places like the Eau Claire Lumber Building. cSPACE is grateful for the dedication of its board, and its champions, like Ms. Veres.

Everyone has a song in them

With the formal speakers done, next came an introduction to cSPACE Eau Claire’s first Artist in residence, Kenna Burima.  Kenna Burima is an esteemed musician living and creating here in Calgary who has earned a reputation as, “someone who can teach the unteachable.” She is inspired to bring people together, and to turn ideas into big projects. During her residency here she challenges anyone to book time with her and write a song in 60 minutes or less. 

At the event, Kenna spoke about how, “every moment is an act of creation.” She led the audience through a group exercise as a teaser, and concluded with an original song, inspired by the history of the lumber mill and the confluence of the rivers, called, “These Walls Can Speak.”

Calgary’s Poet Laureate speaks

Bringing the event to a close, Calgary’s poet laureate, Wakefield Brewster, came to the stage. Mr. Brewster is known for his lyrical eloquence and also his commitment to empowering community. Earlier this year, cSPACE commissioned a new work for their AGM. Brewster brought the house down with his performance of this newly commissioned, spoken-word poem, entitled “What Do You See / Better Together.”

In the end, Schurig thanked his cSPACE team for their work as creative placemakers; the tireless and dedicated cSPACE board; cSPACE partners in city-building; and artists like Wakefield and Kenna who bring innumerable benefits to everyday lives. Thanks also went to all the speakers, and to Eldon Weasel Child, for sharing their insights. Clearly it takes a village. 

In closing, cSPACE is thrilled to work alongside community partners in unleashing Calgary’s creative potential. Together we look forward to enlivening the downtown and bringing renewed life to this cSPACE Eau Claire Hub for all Calgarians.

Additional Reading

About cSPACE Projects

cSPACE is a social enterprise dedicated to supporting communities of artists, non-profits, and entrepreneurs working at the creative edge of change. We believe that diverse communities of artists, designers, musicians and makers can shape our city for the future. Our vision for Calgary is a city where creative enterprise thrives in vibrant communities.

About cSPACE Eau Claire Neighbourhood Hub

cSPACE Eau Claire is the second creative hub in cSPACE Projects’ emerging portfolio of creative places. Operating out of the historic Eau Claire Lumber Building, this hub is a place where artists, cultural, and under-served community groups without space can gather and create. 

About cSPACE’s creative hub in Marda Loop (formerly King Edward School)

cSPACE’s flagship project is the transformation of a historic sandstone school in Marda Loop. Revitalized as a LEED Gold Certified hub for the creative sector, it features 47,500 s.f. of space for creation, exhibition, meeting and performance. 

Background on the Eau Claire Lumber Building
The Eau Claire & Bow River Lumber Co. was established in Calgary in 1886. The present building (on the City’s inventory of evaluated historic assets) was built c.1903-04 and was the second office erected by the lumber company. Since 1978, it has been known to Calgarians as the beloved 1886 Cafe. The wood frame building is being raised to meet flood plain requirements and was moved while Eau Claire Plaza undergoes redevelopment. The building is now temporarily situated at the northwest corner of 3rd street and 2 Ave SW, and is fitted with accessible ramps, attractive outside deck areas, and inviting lighting to support the hub’s use.