This article was written by Michael Bochoff, Marketing & Communications Assistant at Innovacorp.

With its renowned galleries and exhibitions, Nova Scotia has been a prime location for independent artists and craftspeople looking for growth and opportunity. When Eleanor King was asked to design a large-scale mural for the recently unveiled Centre for Ocean Ventures & Entrepreneurship (COVE), it presented a unique opportunity for the worlds of art and business to collide.

“When I first visited the facility, it was essentially a blank canvas and still very much in progress,” said Eleanor. “But I really loved the way they retained the integrity of the original building.”

Formerly belonging to the Coast Guard, the Dartmouth waterfront property has been transformed into a facility for applied innovation in the ocean sector. COVE’s marine infrastructure and collaborative space is now home to local and global ocean technology businesses. 

With free range of the space and experience working on site-specific projects, Eleanor was able to take plenty of inspiration from her surroundings. 

“The ocean is very present here. Living in New York, I don’t feel the presence of the ocean in the same way,” said Eleanor. “The view of Halifax and the architecture is incredible. The columns and structures that go throughout the inside of the building reminded me of the gunnels of a ship.”  

Trained in the world of sculpture, Eleanor has evolved much of her work into large-scale installations like these. Before leaving Nova Scotia, she worked at NSCAD and developed a good relationship with the institution. With a daunting task ahead of her at COVE and a tight deadline, she commissioned recent NSCAD graduates to help lend a hand.

“I had a team of four people on the ground with me,” said Eleanor. “Between the construction and the launch, we only had a week to get this done, so I had to keep colours minimal for logistical reasons.”

Eleanor was initially contacted by Malcolm Fraser, Innovacorp president and CEO and Art Gallery of Nova Scotia’s former board chair, to do the piece. When Malcolm found out a hall in the building would be named after his late friend and former CEO of Waterfront Development, Colin MacLean, it seemed only fitting to incorporate Colin’s love of art into the space.

“We need more public art installations in our public buildings,” said Malcolm. “Colin really spurred the idea for COVE and was always a big fan of arts and culture and its value.” 

Inspired by the ocean and the building’s architecture, Eleanor used the space’s natural elements, which lend themselves well to Colin’s original vision. Diagonal painted stripes coming down from the ceiling in various areas are meant to mimic the light that pours in through the windows on sunny days. A referential map on the wall is based on nautical charts of the entrance and exit into the harbour.

Eleanor even incorporated symbols of semaphore communications, a flag signaling system using the alphabet, into the main entrance. One such symbol is the letter ‘C’ which stands for ‘affirmative’ or ‘yes,’ as well as Colin’s first initial.

“The fact that it was a ‘C’ was almost accidental,” Eleanor said. “Beautiful poetry that it happened actually, but it struck such a beautiful chord with me.”

January 21, 2019, Halifax, Nova Scotia