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Looking for Adventures in Outdoor Art?

Barb Peel's Pottery is inspired by nature • Credit: Rob Stimpson Photography
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Looking for Adventures in Outdoor Art?

Head to the Haliburton Highlands

Painters, potters, weavers, musicians and more await

In the Haliburton Highlands, there is adventure in art. With the highest number of working artists per capita in Ontario, Canada – landscape painters, potters, weavers, jewellery makers, dancers, actors, songwriters and musicians - there are memorable experiences to be had.

The establishment of the Highlands' large and vibrant arts community began in the late 1800s, alongside the arrival of farmers, loggers, railway workers, and grist and sawmill owners who settled in this wild, tree covered land with their families. A private pavilion was built at Head Lake where pioneer families gathered for evenings of plays and music. Today, that location is now the site of the state of the art Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion, home to the Highlands Summer Festival and dozens of other musical and performance events throughout the year. With the arrival of the Haliburton School of the Arts in 1968 and the formation of an Arts Council in 2003, the arts became firmly established in the community.

The adventure in art starts with the artist. Their work, inspired by wildness, water and landscapes, sets the stage for exploration and discovery. Art adventures take many forms. It can involve walking, biking and or skiing through the Haliburton Sculpture Forest to discover over twenty unique outdoor sculptures.

Haliburton-Sculpture-Forest-1The Sleep of the Huntress, Haliburton Sculpture Forest  

Visitors and locals alike can see, hear, taste and touch the artist's world during the annual Haliburton County Studio Tour. The prospect of driving the scenic back roads of the Highlands in the blazing colours of autumn to discover studios where amazing artists present and demonstrate their craft prompts an early entry on the calendar. On that same calendar is Winter Folk Camp where you can spend the weekend in a camp setting learning and playing music with award winning artists-in-residence while experiencing a Canadian winter snowshoeing and cross country skiing on wilderness trails.

Barrie Martin, owner of Haliburton's Yours Outdoors, a company that specializes in experiential tourism, believes that art combined with recreation, heritage, and nature offers truly distinctive adventures that result in lifelong memories and expressions of art. As a self proclaimed experience broker, he works with artists and other community partners to create packages for independent and small group travellers that provide opportunities to appreciate and create art, engage with local folks and connect with the faces, spaces and places that inspire works of art. Many of the packages take you behind the scenes and into places not normally accessible to regular travellers.

During the Pedal Your Arts tour, you will cycle the area's picturesque back roads and villages to visit studios and galleries and spend some quality time with amazing artists.

Gone to Pot: Adventures in Clay involves visits to at least three pottery studios to create flatware, throw pots on a wheel, and even meet Hairy Potter (aka Grahame Wales). The pots that you make will find a special place in your home. And if you can stand the heat, Some Like It Hot, an introduction to glassblowing and blacksmithing, is an adventure with a lot of sizzle.

Glass-Blowing---Yours-OutdoorsAdventure in glassblowing at Artech Studios

Haliburton Rocks!, a geology adventure that involves hiking and mineral collecting, reveals the art of nature in minerals and crystals and a "rock" artist who finds inspiration in earth formations that he expresses in oil and acrylics. Path of the Paddle, a daylong canoe trip, ends with a visit to a local artist and craftsman who is using traditional methods and technologies to build a 36 foot birch bark canoe that is destined for the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa, Canada's national capital.

"There are many art experiences that we can draw upon to create these adventure packages. Our community is filled with colourful characters doing remarkable things," says Barrie. "Art is our culture; it seems to be infused into everything we do."

Even the Hike Haliburton Festival featuring over 45 guided themed hikes and special events has integrated art into its offerings including concerts, ghost walks, an art walk, the Taste Trail, and a hike called Trail Troubadours lead by a singer/songwriter. Organizers recently introduced the concept of celebrity hikers — musicians, authors, poets, comedians — who randomly join a guided hike and somewhere along the route deliver a spontaneous performance to the delight of fellow trekkers.

Other events such as the Haliburton Art & Craft Festival, Haliburton Highlands Opera Studio, Minden Hills Bluegrass Festival, and blues and folk concerts series provide year round entertainment for art lovers.

Where there is art, there is adventure — just ask anybody in the Haliburton Highlands.

Note:This article was featured in the Issue No. 44 of the International Lifestyle magazine. 

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