It is no wonder Northumberland's artistic offerings are so diverse, with something new around almost every corner. The beauty of the area's waterways and landscapes are like magnets which have been drawing performers, artisans and musicians to this county for decades. In addition, there are venues for theatre, music and art which recapture history and make these spectacular, historical locations breathe again with creative new life.
Two of the most historical and unique venues are the Capitol Theatre in Port Hope, built during the depression, and Cobourg's 1856 Victoria Hall, The Concert Hall. The Capitol has been expanded into an arts centre but its original structure still replicates the interior of a medieval courtyard with hanging vines and mocing clouds in the sky. It remains the last operating atmospheric theatre in this country. Audiences can emjoy a wide range of performances.
Among the Concert Hall's key architectural features within the gracious spaces of Victoria Hall, are its Grecian columns and intricately painted ceiling. Originally built to be the capital before Toronto was chosen, Victoria Hall was saved from the wrecker's ball and brought back to life in the 1970s.
Among the newest old buildings given a new lease on life, is the former Park Theatre in Cobourg. The interior of the 1950's style cinema on King Street East in Cobour has been entirely gutted and renovated by the owner for professional and theatrical performances and headliners like Suzanne Sommers.
With these diverse performance venues in Northumberland, along with historical churches and others, you'd expect local talent to fill them with great sounds and performances throughout the year - and that is just what happens. Such groups include the internationally acclaimed La Jeurnesse Girls Choir, The Concert Band of Cobourg and perennial presentations by the Victorian Operatta Society and the country sound of the Sweet Water Band, plus many, many others.
There are also free music-in-the-park performances to enjoy on a summer evening in Warkworth, Hastings, Brighton, Campbellford, Cobourg and Port Hope.
In addition to historical settings for theatre and music lovers to enjoy, don't miss two of a more rustic nature. Brighton Barn Theare, next to Proctor House Museum, is an 1850's post and beam style structure.
The Westben Arts Festival Theare, located on the outskirts of Campbellford, is into its 8th season creating world-class musical performances ranging from Mozart to jazz under the direction of Brian Finley and his wife, soprano opera singer Donna Bennett. The sides of the barn can be closed or opened to let the surrounding rural landscape become the backdrop for their musical celebrations.
There are picnic-basket, overnight and dinner packages to add to the experience.
Academy Award winning comedic actress Marie Dressler, born in Cobourg in the late 1860's, is the catalyst for the Vintage Film Festival which features classics during the last weekend in October. The line up is shared between the Concert Hall in Cobourg and the Capitol Theatre in neighbouring Port Hope. And of Course, the Capitol Theatre has its own cinematic offerings year round. There are also several outlets for modern movies, plus one of the few remaining drive-ins in Ontario. The Port Hope Drive-In located on Theare Road; just the place to take a carload of your friends or family, put your feet up and munch away.
In addition to the well-established Art Gallery of Northumberland overlooking Lake Ontario on the third floor of historic Victoria Hall, there are regional and local galleries all over the county with diverse goals and unique experiences.
The year-round Colborne Art Gallery focuses on visual arts with showings of pottery, sculptures, etchings, drawings and paintings. It is located in the historic registry office and offers a permanent display about early life in the region.
A.K. Collings gallery on John Street in Port Hope features local artists, but has representations from across Canada. Two spaces allow for a boutique of fine arts and fine crafts in one and a more concentrated showing by one or two artists in the other. Owner Aurleie Collings' window displays often mirror community events.
Randy Smoke's Gallery of Fine Arts is a new gallery at Alderville First Nations near the Alderville war monument on County Road #45 south of Roseneath.
There are other more informal opportunities to enjoy art in Northumberland like that provided by international artist and member of the American Society of Botanical Artists, Carol Paton, whose home showcases her life-like renderings of plants and flowers. Her studio overlooks the rear garden of Burleigh House, her 1886 home in Campbellford.
The Northumberland Studio Tour, held in late September, is a popular weekend when area artists open their homes and studios so you can watch them work their magic and see what stimulates their creative juices. Take home a keepsake that will be a conversation piece for years to come.
Warkworth is a designated artisan community and attracts creative people to live and work there. The caliber and range of artistic events in this rural community has already garnered national attention. A walk through the downtown showcases fine pottery, hand-blown glass and an eclectic array of artistic works.
Diverse pieces of public art dot the Northumberland landscape. From the shining aluminum flock of birds rising skyward in the Chris Garrett Memorial Park, to the life size Bronze Man on Cobourg's main street representing business people, each elicits personal emotions. There are also several wall murals chronicling Cobourg's importance as an early harbour. Colborne boasts several exterior wall murals that tell tales of the past and just north of Hasting's Lock 18 on the Trent River is a newer one depicting key figures in the village's history.
Perhaps the most unique, freestanding piece of art in Northumberland is a giant replica of Canada's $2 coin created by artist Brent Townsend in his hometown of Campbellford.