Finding Culture at the Cottage
When artist and writer Victoria Ward left the big city and moved to a log cabin in rural Ontario, Canada, she thought she left art and culture behind. She was wrong. They DO exist in cottage country and here’s where you can find them.
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A decade ago, when I moved from the big city to the Haliburton Highlands—a region known to city folk as “cottage country”—I was worried that I would be leaving culture behind. I figured I would have to make many trips away from my beautiful cabin in the woods to stay stimulated and inspired as a professional artist. Not so!
What I found was that many other artists and arts supporters live in rural Canada. They wanted to get out of the city, and were determined to bring culture with them. In fact, here in the Haliburton Highlands alone you can find two of the most innovative arts institutions in central Ontario.
The Agnes Jamieson Gallery in Minden and The Rails End Gallery in Haliburton operate year round and exhibit artists from across the country. These institutions are administered by people who understand their galleries are in the country, not the city: visitors enjoy an artistic outing that blends the outdoorsy-ness of life in the county with all the sophistication of a downtown gallery.
The Agnes Jamieson Gallery, located on a large property in downtown Minden near the Gull River, features a historic museum in original log cabins, a library and R.D. Lawrence Place—a centre that focuses on the author, his work with animals and the environment. This summer, the gallery is exhibiting a retrospective of painter Rod Prouse, a much beloved former teacher of the Haliburton School of the Arts and a senior artist in the Canadian community.
The Rails End Gallery is a former railway station that has been cleverly renovated to keep its past alive. Its picture-perfect location in Head Lake Park is both on the lake and in the centre of the town of Haliburton. Though the Rails End is most definitely a rural gallery, they keep up with the times by publishing a blog called Artfully Yours, a Facebook page and Twitter feed at @RailsEnd.
This year the Rails End Gallery turns 50 and events and demonstrations are planned throughout the summer, such as:
- Sunday Ramble: a walk through local trails from the gallery front door with local flora and fauna experts;
- Art Attack: local artists lead kids through learning different art techniques;
- Trash & Treasures: a wildly popular flea market that happens every June; and the
- Arts & Crafts Festival in August.
As a professional artist, I’ve had exhibitions at both of these galleries and found the experience immensely rewarding. I have sold work to visitors and cottagers that now hang in the United Nations in New York and a business in Switzerland. I have learned to never make assumptions about rural areas.