Still Standing

5 small-town art galleries worth the detour

All across the country, small town galleries are giving artists big opportunitites

All across the country, small town galleries are giving artists big opportunitites

Inside All About U Arts in Skidegate, B.C. (All About U Arts/Facebook)

Urbanites have been known to say that they couldn't move somewhere smaller because they'd miss "the arts and culture" of wherever they're living right now. (The next time someone says this to you, by the way, ask them the last time they went to an art gallery.)

But Canada's small towns have some galleries that are doing big things and helping launch the next generation of Canadian artists. Here are a few of them.

All About U Arts, Skidegate, B.C.

Artist Ben Davidson didn't intend to start an art gallery. When Davidson, a Haida carver, first bought a dilapidated building in the Haida Gwaii town of Skidegate, he just wanted to use it as a workshop. But people kept dropping by the shop to buy art, and after a while, he decided he would be better off turning the shop into a gallery, and moving the shop to another nearby building. Now, All About U is a gallery that would rival any small urban art gallery, giving a new generation of Haida artists a place to show their work. 

Jonny visited Skidegate in Season 2! Watch the episode.

NorVA Centre, Flin Flon, Man.

Flin Flon's Northern Visual Arts Centre, more commonly known as NorVA, is an incubator for painters, illustrators, sculptors, potters and photographers. NorVA provides both studio and exhibition space for local artists, as well as hosting exhibitions from visiting artists, and holding art classes to help encourage the next generation.

Touchstones Museum, Nelson, B.C.

Nelson has been called the most artistic small town in Canada. While that's a bit of a judgment call, it is definitely home to the Touchstones Museum. Touchstones is located in Nelson's old post office. It has a permanent collection of art and artifacts from the Sinixit and Ktunaxa Nations, as well as items from Nelson's past as a mining boom town. In addition to all that, it also hosts multiple rotating exhibitions from both local and international artists.

Riverbrink Art Museum, Queenston, Ont.

Samuel E. Weir was an Ontario art lover, who also happened to do some lawyering to pay the bills. In 1970, Weir, then 72 and retired, wrote a letter to a friend saying "I have built a foolish house on the Niagara River with the idea of leaving it for a museum, art gallery, library, etc., mainly Canadiana. I expect there will be no inheritance taxes. This is my idea of doing good in my life or at the end of my life." That foolish house is now the Riverbrink museum, home to Weir's art collection, which includes several Group of Seven paintings, as well as travelling exhibitions from around the world. 

Ojibwe Cultural Foundation, M'Chigeeng, Ont.

Located on Manitoulin Island in Northwestern Ontario, the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation museum is home to a permanent collection of Anishnaabe artwork and historical artifacts, including antler carvings, sweetgrass baskets, and "ancient scrolls depicting the attainment of Anishinaabe spiritual knowledge." It also hosts rotating exhibitions from contemporary Indigenous artists, working in mediums that range from traditional beadwork to photography to sculpture,