If you’re like me, you want to escape the ordinary when you're travelling. Thunder Bay's robust art scene will ensure you are sufficiently delighted—from art that challenges you to funky outdoor murals that will make you eager to explore, Ontario's Northwestern hub on Lake Superior has it all. Visitors may also want to check out the local theatre scene or catch some music in the park at Live at the Waterfront.
Watch your step, though—us artist types will occasionally attempt to alter your world view and challenge your comfort zone. With the best intentions, the goal is to connect you with your deeper self and to others, offering diverse perspectives of humanity. Thunder Bay offers this and more with Indigenous art, contemporary art, theatre, music, history, pop culture, and the world of craft.
where are the art galleries in thunder bay located?
In this artsy city? Pretty much everywhere! The Thunder Bay Art Gallery and the Definitely Superior Art Gallery are great places to start engaging in the introspective and experimental, along with Louise Thomas’s Ahnisnabae Art Gallery which offers contemporary Indigenous art. The majority of visual art establishments, including art shops like Chenier Fine Arts and the Baggage Building Art Centre are located in the North Core (formerly Port Arthur) within walking distance from one another.
The Thunder Bay Art Gallery is our premier public gallery representing Northern Ontario, with one of the largest collections of Indigenous art in Canada. With three large gallery spaces, internationally prominent Canadian artists are featured alongside our talented high school and university visual art students.
The Definitely Superior Art Gallery is the site of a community-based alternative gallery, offering fresh, relevant shows with a youthful spirit. The gallery hosts fundraising events that are major spectacles drawing in thousands of fans. This includes filling retail venues, floor space, and windows with dozens of performance acts and art, including film, multimedia, dance—you name it—for Urban Infil in the fall. They're also involved in Hunger—the massive Halloween event in October, where it’s costume heaven and an entertainment smorgasbord.
The Ahnisnabae Art Gallery features the work of Roy Thomas and dozens of other artists, primarily of Indigenous ancestry. With an emphasis on paintings, prints, and sculptures, the gallery shop also sells, cards, books, jewelry, calendars, clothing, handbags, and much more. Famous artists’ works like Norval Morrisseau and Christi Belcourt occasionally hit the walls, along with up-and-coming artists likely to become nationally recognized.
4. Chenier Fine Arts Gallery
Practically next door is the Chenier Fine Arts Gallery, owned and operated by Debra Chenier who is also an arts consultant. The gallery features Canadian artists who exhibit nationally along with local artists.
5. Baggage Building Arts Centre
Nearby is the Baggage Building Arts Centre, a multi-use space for art shows, artists, classes, exhibitions, performances, and more. Located at Prince Arthur’s Landing, this is a tourist destination spot, active all year round, but more so in the summer.
6. & 7. Gallery 33 & Painted Turtle
Gallery 33 & Painted Turtle, up the hill on River Street, feature local art by new and professional artists and is a great place to stock up on art supplies.
The streets of Thunder Bay are colourful to say the least, thanks to the dozens of murals that dot the downtown landscape. Enjoy the murals as you happen upon them or take the city's walking tour to spot them all. Find a list of the murals here.
9. public art walking tour
The city's waterfront is packed with public art in the form of sculpture, architecture, and even cedar lanterns. Download the walking tour brochure or pick up a copy at the Baggage Centre.
more places to find theatre, art, and creativity in the city
Local bakeries and coffee shops
Many local coffee and cake shops along with many restaurants are supportive of resident artists—art can be enjoyed (and often purchased) as you linger over an afternoon coffee.
Thunder Bay Museum
For even more visual art and a bit of history, the third floor of the Thunder Bay Museum hosts quality art shows, with work for sale. Exhibits feature touring art shows and local professional artists.
The Thunder Bay Community Auditorium plays host to many top-notch music and theatre performances throughout the year, and is the home of the only professional symphony between Toronto and Winnipeg, the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra. With the best acoustics in the land and a large seating capacity, it’s no surprise that its success has been astonishing. Looking back now, it’s hard to believe there was a huge public political battle in the 1980s as to whether building the auditorium was a good idea.
Our premier theatre company, built into an old schoolhouse and centrally located in the North Core, is Magnus Theatre. Other local production companies perform in other venues, often with resplendent backdrops in old churches, and the lavish Community Auditorium, including Cambrian Players, Applauze, Eleanor Drury Children's Theatre, Paramount Live, Badanai Theatre, and the Confederation College Performing Arts Club.
Thunder Bay is also craft central, especially before Christmas. Craft shows are in competition now, and the numbers of craft shows continue to grow. Currently the most prominent and diverse are Artisans Northwest and The Craft Revival (The Craft Revival also has a spring edition in May!).
plan your art adventure in thunder bay now!
When we visit these venues and support the arts we celebrate and contribute to a cascade of what makes this world worth living in. The sprinkling of individual talent throughout the city are like stars. The more we have, the more splendid the view of our galaxy.