By Jim Barber, Bay of Quinte Living
The Bay of Quinte Region is blessed with one of the most spectacularly diverse and dynamic artistic and cultural experiences in all of Ontario.
An abundance of artist and artisanal galleries is spread the entire region from Brighton, to Napanee and everywhere in between. There are performing arts venues that are the envy of most other regions, professional and amateur theatre companies presenting a range of productions to suit even the most discriminating of critical palates. Festivals featuring the best in heritage, culture and art happen in various communities throughout the calendar year, while the eclectic array of musical talent is breathtaking.
All of this is not only adding to the already rich quality of life throughout the Bay of Quinte’s component communities, but the sophisticated and highly organized arts and culture sector has become a powerful economic development driver and a way to help the area’s villages towns and cities continue to grow and prosper.
A recent report by the Organization of Economic Co-operation (OECD, a prominent international organization that helps “promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world,” talked about the significant role that arts and culture are play in the community and economic development of towns and cities.
“It is clear that culture is important for tourism and for the attractiveness and competitiveness of destinations. The most successful destinations are those that can create a positive synergy between culture and tourism. But this synergy does not happen automatically. It has to be created,developed and managed,” the report stated.
Arts and culture is now considered is not only for the intellectual, emotional and spiritual enrichment of the current residents of a community or region but is a powerful tool to be used to attract visitors to the ‘destination.’ These visitors perhaps would be suitably impressed with the cultural vibrancy of a community and want to visit again, maybe even purchase a part time residence or move permanently. Or they might relocate their small business or advocate for the relocation or development of a new large-scale commercial or manufacturing facility to a region because of the richness of its quality of life, thanks in part to the arts and culture sector.
In the areas of live theatre, professional quality venues, diversity of artists and artisans, leading edge galleries, arts and culture-based festivals, and variety of opportunities to hear music from a host of styles and genres, the Bay of Quinte Region is blessed. Here are some of the highlights.
For live theatre, there is the Belleville Theatre Guild, based out of the Pinnacle Playhouse downtown. And the Empire Theatre also plays host to touring theatrical shows and musicals as well as hosting many local productions.
For nearly 20 years the Stirling Festival Theatre as a building and as a producer of shows, has been must-see entertainment all year round. It has become a major draw for Stirling, bringing in thousands of theatre-goers from throughout the Bay of Quinte Region and beyond.
Just north of Napanee, in a lovingly-restored church in the hamlet of Selby, Lennox Community Theatre has been providing an intimate, alternative theatrical experience for folks throughout Lennox & Addington County and beyond.
Prince Edward County is blessed with a top notch professional summer theatre company in the Festival Players and is home to The Regent Theatre in Picton, a unique venue that hosts cinema, musical shows as well as theatrical productions – a focal point of the entertainment scene for locals and visitors alike.
And in the westernmost portion of the Bay of Quinte Region, there is also the wonderful Brighton Barn Theatre.
The Bay of Quinte features a plethora of visual artists, some of whom have their own studios, others who work in the privacy of their homes, but display at one or more of the many incredibly diverse gallery experiences in the region. From The Gates at Presqu-ile Park, to the John M. Parrott Art Gallery and Belleville Art Association Gallery, Timberwolf Gallery in Quinte West, Oeno Gallery and Guest House in Bloomfield, Native Renaissance in Deseronto, the Mad Dog Gallery in Picton or the recently opened Synergy Artisan Gallery in Napanee – and dozens more – the region is a awash in talent.
The region is also host to numerous studio tours and arts festivals that draw in thousands of visitors to the region, not only to sample the artistic wares available, but also to travel the highways, byways and back roads of the Bay of Quinte Region, soaking in the natural splendour as well.
From classical, to jazz to blues to modern rock, classic rock and even heavy metal, there are restaurants, night clubs, bars, concert halls, Legion halls, open-air pavilions and even hockey arenas that host live music year round throughout the Bay of Quinte Region for music lovers.
The Empire Theatre hosts top Canadian and international touring acts indoors, and in the summer time brings in some of the biggest names in classic rock and country for the Empire Square Live and Empire Rockfest events. Prince Edward County boasts both the PEC Music Festival and PEC Jazz Festival.
Every community in the Bay of Quinte Region has at least a handful of places presenting live music to appreciative audiences of all age and taste demographics – too numerous to mention here, but all are worth investigation.
The health of a community or a region can be measured in many ways – one of which is quality of life. And within that ephemeral term, the inspirational and emotional uplift engendered by an exciting choice of artistic, creative and culture-based experiences can in fact be measured. It can be measured by the number of people who continually choose to live, work, invest and play in a part of Ontario that stimulates their hearts and minds as well as the bottom line.
To this end, the Bay of Quinte Region has it all.