Now that the holidays are over, it’s one of the best times to get out and take in some art. Galleries aren’t as busy, for one, and for another, the mind always needs some extra nourishment during these doldrums of winter.
Here in The Great Waterway, there are more than fifty galleries (way more when you include artist studios) featuring everything from native stone sculptures to contemporary abstract paintings; chances are you’ll find the right brain food in at least one of them. Here are a few of my picks per region to help with the search.
Bay of Quinte
The John M. Parrot Gallery is the only public art gallery in the Quinte region, and fittingly it’s in the Belleville Public Library. Go there for provocative photography (e.g. a recent series of 100 mug shots from 1886-1908) and paintings from renowned local artists like Manly MacDonald. Head west to Timberwolf Gallery in Trenton for Doug Comeau’s shockingly real drawings or east to Tyendinaga’s Native Renaissance 2 for Thomas B. Maracle’s award-winning stone, wood and antler sculptures.
Prince Edward County
The County’s galleries routinely have some of the most exciting works on display in the region, and now is no different. At Oeno, for example, which is Huff Estates Winery’s contemporary art gallery, you’ll find new works on paper created by several of the gallery’s own artists, while at Wellington Pottery, Maggie Murdoch and David Drown are balancing fanciful designs and clean, simple lines. Small Pond Arts is a piece of art itself, and check out Shattered north of Wellington for traditional stained glass turned on its head.
Land O’ Lakes and Napanee
If you’re an art fan and near Tweed, take the opportunity to stop by Quinn’s of Tweed, a beautiful 6,000 square foot space (and one of the oldest buildings in town) featuring paintings, photographs, artisan work and fine gifts. The same goes for Napanee and Synergy Artisan Gallery, where each work is united by fire water, earth and air, and The Piggery Gallery in Newburgh, a former pig farm turned showcase for handcrafted furniture, fine art and more.
Rideau Heritage Route
For a few artist-run spaces in this region, check out Riverguild Fine Crafts in Perth, one of Canada’s oldest artist cooperatives that carries pottery, paintings, hand-blown glass and way more; Westport’s Artemisia, where local artist Georgia Ferrell presents Canadian artists working in a variety of media, including oil, watercolour and wrought iron; and The Grotto Artworks in art-crazy Merrickville, where 13 local artists show off everything from glassworks to photography to textiles.
The region’s densest metropolis is a great spot for a mini art tour. Start off at Kingston Glass Studio & Gallery for some of the most original glass art I’ve seen, and then head over to Queen’s and the Agnes Etherington Art Centre for a collection numbering 16,000 works ranging from contemporary and Indegenous art to the Bader Collection, focussing on Rembrandt. Finish off with a bit of experimental contemporary art at Modern Fuel in the new Tett Centre.
Gananoque and Brockville are the hubs for art galleries in the 1000 Islands. My Brockville faves are the Marianne van Silfhout Gallery at St. Lawrence College (don’t miss Michèle LaRose’s Escher-like abstract paintings this winter) and From Here to Infinity, a gallery in a downtown 1840s building purveying paintings, historical photos and rare books. In Gananoque, head to the waterfront and Gallery Vaga, where you’ll find watercolours, oils, pastels, acrylics, and pen and ink works by local artists.
Cornwall and the Counties
The Art Gallery Cornwall is this area’s most well-known gallery, and rightly so. A 1,900 square foot space that features almost 600 permanent works, it emphasizes public arts education and multidisciplinary exhibitions. Don’t miss Centre Culturel les Trois P’tits Points in Alexandria, however, a gallery encouraging Franco-Ontarian artists, or the quaint Basket Case Café and Art Gallery in Morrisburg, which has a surprisingly diverse collection of paintings from local artists along with antiques and collectibles (and a really good Sunday brunch).