Why artists are flocking to Niagara

Niagara's Rich Art Heritage

Words by Liz Guber, a freelance writer from Toronto. Article content was produced by Globe Content Studio

You’ll be forgiven if art is not the first thing you associate with Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL).

When I think of the charmed region, my mind drifts to wine, or leisurely road trips past farm stands offering tempting shares of the fall harvest. But the picture-perfect region is rapidly becoming a destination for art lovers. The local galleries, museums and historic sites are easily accessible—all are located near NOTL’s main strip and offer free or pay-what-you-can admission. Given the stunning natural setting, the galleries and museums often double as attractive spots to stop and take in the waterfront views, contrasting the real-life beauty of fall foliage with the depictions on canvas you’ll find inside.

My first stop is the Niagara Pumphouse Art Centre. With a motto of “art for all” this community hub offers its wall space to local artists. During my visit, mystical and surreal portraits by Lynne Gaetz, a NOTL-based artist, were on display. There were also workshops led by artist-instructors, coffee-with-the-curator chats, and unmissable events such as the Moonlit Picnic, which is as magical as it sounds: wine, dancing and dining under the stars on the waterfront property.

Next up, a quick stop at King Street Gallery, just around the corner from happening Picton Street. Set inside one of the town’s oldest homes, the 1,500-square-foot space is devoted to Canadian fine artists of all disciplines. Standouts include textural acrylic paintings and tonal collages by Isabelle St-Roch, oil paintings by Zaan Claassens that depict distorted  ripples on water (how fitting), and whimsical wire sculptures by Donna Harradine.

The last stop on my self-guided art tour takes me to one of the area’s most established art destinations: The RiverBrink Art Museum. The gallery is located in the tony Georgian-style home of prominent lawyer and art collector Samuel E. Weir, spread over three floors. RiverBrink hosts rotating exhibitions by Canadian artists. The latest features sculptures by Susan Low-Beer, whose explorations of human relationships manifest in surreal combinations of shape, material and texture.

Making my way through the house, I eagerly head upstairs, where the best might be saved for last. The gallery is home to an impressive collection of Group of Seven works, including studies of Tom Thomson’s famed “The Jack Pine” and the lesser-known depictions of city life by Lawren Harris. And if I ever wanted to stay a while to expand my art knowledge, RiverBrink offers a six-week art history course, along with creative workshops led by local artists and talks.

To say the region is creatively-inclined would be an understatement. But with natural views so pretty you can’t help but want to capture them, that should come as no surprise.

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