Upcycling a North Saanich school for arts, music and more

McTavish Academy of Arts aims to create links with the creative community.

Lucas Copplestone, left, and Sean McNeill are the new owners of the McTavish Road School in North Saanich. They purchased it from School District 63 (Saanich) and plan on converting it to an arts, music and agricultural centre.

Lucas Copplestone, left, and Sean McNeill are the new owners of the McTavish Road School in North Saanich. They purchased it from School District 63 (Saanich) and plan on converting it to an arts, music and agricultural centre.

For years, the McTavish Road School has sat idle, just waiting for someone to come along and breathe new life into it.

Enter Sean McNeill and Lucas Copplestone, both raised on the Saanich Peninsula, who have some big goals for the space. They purchased the former school building earlier this year and are only a couple weeks away from getting the keys in hand.

They are establishing the McTavish Academy of Arts — a space for creativity on a variety of levels.

“It’s going to a be a centre for the living arts,” said McNeill. “There will be art, music, dance, yoga, mindfulness and meditation and even agriculture.”

The two have been running disparate programs along those lines for the last eight years and felt now was the time to combine them all under one roof, in a project that is a business — but one that focuses on bringing out people’s creativity on a variety of levels.

“I think we can become that space that can offer more creativity,” Copplestone said. “Yet, it’s important to be able to mix art and business together.”

The McTavish Academy, they say, will be a place where people who create, can meet others who have done similar things and found success at turning their creative passions into a business. Lucas said, in example, young people who draw cartoon characters might be able to use the space as a meeting place at first and then learn through others how to market their ideas.

Yet first and foremost, the McTavish Academy is about offering a space to a variety of community-based artists, musicians, dancers and more.

“A lot of space for arts and music has been lost over the years, McNeill said.

He noted there have been recent stories in the media about schools having their arts and music program funding cut. The Academy, he continued, is looking to be a place that keeps those things alive — for both youth and adults.

Copplestone added many people are trapped in the adult game of getting jobs, making money, raising families. And while none of that is necessarily bad, he said people sometimes put their creative endeavours on hold. Their project, he said, hopes to create connections into the community and try to bring more people back into their creative side.

To that end, their plan is to be able to offer drop in studio space  for art, music, dancing, you name it.

“We don’t necessarily have these kinds of spaces anymore,” said McNeill, “just a place to hang out for a few hours.”

The duo have planned a soft opening of the space on June 4 and 5 as part of the annual Saanich Peninsula Studio Tour.

Between now and then, McNeill and Copplestone have a lot of work to do, renovating portions of the interior of the former school.

To that end, they launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. They hope to raise $10,000 to help cover the cost of flooring, paint and more. In return, they’re offering donors art, program passes, T-shirts and more.  Find out more about the campaign at kickstarter.com and search for McTavish Academy of Arts.

The pair also plan on starting slow, opening the front portions of the building first, working their way to the back and onto the agricultural land at the rear of the property. While those plans are tentative, McNeill and Copplestone said they’re thinking about garden plots. They call agriculture another creative outlet, spurred on by the broader farming community with knowledge and skills to share.

That’s the theme throughout their plans for the Academy — people sharing their experience in a variety of creative outlets.

“There’s a lot of people out there doing stuff,” McNeill said. “We hope to foster open communication and collaboration with many organizations and individuals who may want to use the space here.”

The McTavish Academy of Arts is scheduled to open in early May with three classrooms converted to host yoga, art and dance. McNeill said they’re looking at a partial opening for drop-in classes on May 9, with full class and program schedules in place by May 16.

To learn more about the McTavish Academy of Arts and their Kickstarter campaign, visit maoa.ca.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The COVID-19 pandemic had an effect on film production on central and north Vancouver Island, says Vancouver Island North Film Commission. Pictured here, production of TV series Resident Alien in Ladysmith earlier this year. (Black Press file)
Film commissioner says COVID-19 cost central Island $6 million in economic activity

Jurassic World: Dominion, Chesapeake Shores among productions halted due to pandemic, says INFilm

Chelsey Moore’s character Chloe in the upcoming virtual reality game Altdeus: Beyond Chronos. Screengrab
Vancouver Island actress finds success in a virtual world

Black Creek’s Chelsey Moore lends her voice to a new video game set for release in December

Ceramic artist Darrel Hancock working on a clay jug in his home studio in Qualicum Beach. (Submitted photo)
Qualicum Beach potter Darrel Hancock celebrates 40 years in business

‘It’s wonderful to do what you love and make a living at it’

Artist Daniel Cline discusses his sculpture, Harmony Humpbacks, during the June 20 walking tour of Oak Bay’s 2019 ArtsAlive sculptures. Harmony Humpbacks was purchased by Oak Bay as the 2019 people’s choice winner and is permanently installed at the Beach Drive entrance to Willows Park. (Kevin Murdoch Photo)
Influx of donated art a ‘fantastic problem to have,’ says Oak Bay mayor

Oak Bay goes from zero to 10 permanent art pieces since 2015

Stephen Laidlaw, prepator with Nanaimo Art Gallery, hangs a photograph of Anna Wong, a B.C. print maker whose works are on display at the gallery. The exhibit opens Friday, Dec. 4, and runs until Feb. 7. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Art Gallery exhibit explores life work of overlooked B.C. printmaker

‘Anna Wong: Traveller on Two Roads’ features more than 70 art works and personal belongings

Nanaimo rappers Konfidential and Teus released their first joint album, <em>The Invasion</em>. (Photo courtesy Raymond Knight)
Nanaimo rappers Konfidential and Teus release first joint album

Duo plan elaborate live-streamed CD release for ‘The Invasion’

Next month Nanaimo musician Spencer Hiemstra releases his solo debut album, ‘Wildlife.’ (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo musician Spencer Hiemstra releases solo debut album

New record ‘Wildlife’ about taking chances and going through changes

Dover Bay Secondary School student Victoria Hathfield’s poem <em>Dear Santa</em> appears in<em> Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas is in the Air</em>. (Photo courtesy Darren Lee)
Nanaimo high schooler has first poem published in ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’

Victoria Hathfield’s ‘Dear Santa’ appears in new Christmas-themed edition of anthology series

Nanaimo graphic designer Amy Pye has written and illustrated her first children’s book, <em>G is for Grizzly Bear: A Canadian Alphabet</em>. (Photo courtesy Amy Pye)
Nanaimo graphic designer releases first children’s book

Amy Pye teaches the Canadian alphabet in ‘G is for Grizzly Bear’

The Vancouver Island Symphony’s Back Row Brass Quintet – including trumpeter Mark D’Angelo, tuba player Nick Atkinson and French horn player Karen Hough (from left) – were scheduled to tour the Nanaimo area with Christmas Under the Big Tent, but the concert series has now been cancelled. (Photo courtesy HA Photography)
Symphony brass quintet’s Christmas concert series cancelled

Performances were to happen at venues in Parksville and Lantzville next month

The Sheringham Point Lighthouse, near Shirley. (Contributed - Lee-Ann Ruttan)
New book shines a light on Sheringham Point Lighthouse

Publication examines history, lightkeepers, and volunteer society

Victoria-based guitarist Eric Harper performs at the Port Theatre on Nov. 27. (Photo credit Tatum Duryba)
Classical guitarist to play at the Port Theatre

Eric Harper to play new songs composed during the pandemic

Most Read