The Creative Archive: Halifax Edition – For the Love of Local
I am starting this edition off with a confession. Save for a small rendezvous with a high school chum who chose Dalhousie for her university studies, I have not been to Halifax. In this context, I will call out that my experience is limited and not commensurate with the impression Halifax left on me.
A coastal city accessible by planes, trains and automobiles, the city is “tall” and “expansive” with its undulating topography and views. Touch down and check-in to the North End area. Home to a variety of boutiques carrying local designers/makers, a smorgasboard of fare, and no shortage of east coast real estate to gawk at.
Tucked up on Cunard St at the base of Agricola (st), Shop Slowly Slowly’s window display is filled with sumptuous fabrics and artistry. Step inside to find a slower pace, an intentionally designed space built for the curious. Noted in their public bio is their desire to carry and tell the stories of brands / designers who are making a positive impact in their communities. A notion evident in who they choose to stock and my first nod to a sense of local camaraderie that I now think of as uniquely east coast. Be prepared to leave with something beautiful for wherever you call home.
Traveling up Agricola St you will find a commercial/residential strip equipped to host your next coffee chat, source your next favourite outfit and provide sustenance to a variety of culinary tastes. The Hali Deli serves a delicious breakfast menu and deli treats, and within a couple blocks you have Café Lara and Luke’s Small Goods as alternatives. The former, being a hub for WFC (Work from Café) regulars, and one offs alike, and the later being a delicious comptoir & grocery with a set of bistro tables at street level to enjoy their scrumptious sandwiches and patisserie. Further north on the strip you will come across Agricola Street Books, an awesome independent bookstore, built into a home, complete with double height shelving and a centre atrium. A place chalked full of local writing talent and a truly enveloping space. Honourable mentions go to Sattva, another boutique carrying local wares, encouraging conscious consumerism, and to Ana + Zac, who recently shut their brick and mortar in response to the massive shift towards e-commerce and a relocation to Lunenberg (a destination for a future essay). A testament to the need for consumers to support their local shops if they still want to experience them.
Continuing northward in the city you will come across the historic Hydrostone neighbourhood, designed for workers displaced by the Halifax Explosion. A district filled with boulevarded streets and mature trees, a great place to stop in pour un café ou croissant, or as a destination for dinner and drinks.
Eventually you will want to head south, and I wouldn’t leave you without a creative compass pointing you in the right direction. Set your sights on the Anna Leonowens Gallery – affiliate gallery of the Nova Scotia School of Art & Design. Curated with the work of students, it is a great place to explore the next generation of creativity. During my visit, I was struck by the work of Amanda Gresik, whose show on the complexities of pain was a beautiful and stark material processing of her own medical past.
The Anna Leonowens Gallery is a stone’s throw from the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, making them a nice duo for an art-focused afternoon. On display this trip was Stan Douglas’s, “Revealing Narratives” and Deanne Fitzpatrick’s, “The Very Notion of Home.” Fitzpatrick, originally from Freshwater, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, now settled in Amherst, Nova Scotia, learned her craft through family tradition, and uses it as a way to connect with her history and share it with future generations. The pieces in the AGNS show “are a testament to the value of home and how we never let go of the indelible mark it has left upon us.” – Fitzpatrick.
Drawing on the synonymous association of the east coast and the water, I encourage you to stop into the Queens Marque area, a newly rebuilt commercial & residential zone complete with fancy french bistros, locally stocked boutiques and public art. While I personally feel this is the most “Toronto-esque” part of Halifax, it is an ideal place to stop en route or returning from a gem just across the water in Dartmouth (also another destination for a future essay).
Expand your itinerary to include some dedicated time at Nature Folk – a Scandinavian spa located at the exit of the ferry terminal on the Dartmouth side. If the sauna and plunge life is not for you, may I recommend a visit to the Halifax Public Gardens? Recommended by a local florist, who gave me one of the warmest welcomes to Halifax I have ever known. Goes to show you that your next connection is always just around the corner in this atlantic paradise and that this essay is not just about Halifax. It is about a community that recognizes and celebrates local craft and seeks human connection. Where the local shopkeep is engaging and quite possibly a new friend. An experience open to all.
Amy Peebles is a curator & producer residing in Hamilton, ON.
Urban planner by education, treasure hunter by choice, and always energized by the act of discovery. Amy is the founder of creative studio Regional Archive and considers herself a child of the world.