Orillia Arts District

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The Sir Sam. Steele building was originally designed as a post office, but now houses the Orillia Museum of Art and History
Sir Samuel Steele Building
aka "Orillia Museum of Art and History"
Orillia has a vast array of artists and artisans, from all areas of the arts: visual, musical, written works to theatre productions. From Orillia itself to the surrounding towns, the arts are a vibrant and growing sector here.

Downtown is the Orillia Museum of Art and History, offering a multitude of arts from area artists, as well as historical artworks and pieces of local history like pottery and artifacts. The displays change in the museum throughout the year, so it isn't unusual to find yourself visiting the museum on a regular basis. Located at 30 Peter Street South, it opens at 10:00am and closes at 4:00pm, from Tuesdays to Saturdays, Sundays 1-4  (closed Mondays from January to May).

The building (Sir Samuel Steele Building) has undergone several upgrades and changes over the years, having originally been the local police station at one point (prior to that, a post office), and has been existence since 1892. I suppose the building itself could be considered a work of art.

For more information on displays/shows and visitor rates, please visit their website: The Orillia Museum of Art and History.

During an outdoor even the stretch of Peter Street South showing many of the art shops and local galleries.
Peter Street Art Corridor (©J. Gracey Stinson)
On Peter Street (between Mississaga and Colborne) you'll find offerings from places like Richard Vandermeer's studio with original paintings and portraits, and prints of some of his works in card format. He's also very skilled in fly-tying, and is an experienced fishing guide.

Tiffin's Creative Center - downtown Orillia
Nearby is the Shadow Box, which often displays the work of artists, and where one can purchase art supplies (paints, canvas, custom framing, etc.), and the Zephyr Art Gallery where a number of artists' works are on display and where a variety of special events take place in the local art community.

Just off Peter Street in a small laneway entrance you'll find Tiffin's Creative Center, where local artworks are always on display, and prints are offered for sale, along with cards and other artistic work. Tiffins is one of the great local printer's (I have used them too) and provides not only printing for artists, but photocopies, fax services, laminating, some supplies, and variety of other useful services.

One of the iron boat sculptures from the Streets Alive program; this one is located at the Port of Orillia.
Hand Painted banners done by Orillia artists for the Festival of Banners in Orillia
Festival of Banners, Orillia
One of the things that is a huge hit during spring to fall in Orillia is the sponsoring and showing of outdoor art. In 2010, the downtown streets became a huge outdoor art show. The sidewalks were festooned with large wooden guitars, painted by local artists. The display was pretty amazing. (see this page for some of the guitars on display), and 2009 was the Festival of Banners (this I think has been a 3-year run, with new banners being painted each year and hung from the lamp posts).

From the the first painted displays in the streets of Orillia, Streets Alive has continued to grow, and have had subsequent art such as iron sailboats with painted sales, wooden chairs, and letters. Have a look at their site where you can see some of these: (Orillia Streets Alive)

Two of the large wooden chairs bearing painted artwork designs from downtown Orillia during Streets Alive.

Along with the visual arts, there are many musicians taking part in music festivals throughout the year in Orillia. The Mariposa Folk Festival  is a long-standing favourite in this area, although it takes over one of our large public parks, which some of us locals really aren't that happy about. A public park should remain public, and not require an entrance fee. Most of us will "grit our teeth" and look the other way (or pay the entrance fee) for the duration of the festival.

It's a very worthwhile endeavour and without the entrance fee, the festival wouldn't survive. And that is something no one wants to see. It is one of the most popular and well-attended musical events in Orillia, drawing visitors from all over Canada.

We used to live quite close to this park, and one year the members of Herman's Hermits were on stage. I wandered over to the park, where some areas were closed unless you paid admission. But you could sit on the hill and hear the music just fine. Since that time, the festival has grown and expanded and taken over most of the park.  If you're a music fan, this is one of the "must see" events in Orillia.

Throughout the year, there are a number of other music festivals - notably the Orillia Jazz and Blues Festival  which has been another popular venue for music lovers.

Orillia's own Gospel Elvis at the Canada Day Parade in downtown Orillia.
Downtown Orillia Canada Day Parade
©J. Gracey Stinson

Orillia entertainer James Anderson performing as Gospel Elvis at the Mariposa Market in downtown Orillia
Gospel Elvis at the Mariposa Market, 
©J. Gracey Stinson
In the downtown core and the waterfront park (Couchiching Beach Park) there are frequently performers in the "open air" - both on the sidewalks, and at the Acqua Theatre in Couchiching Beach Park.

During the numerous parades in Orillia you'll find musicians and singers taking part on the floats, as well as on erected bandstands at the waterfront. Festivals and outdoor events occur almost every weekend in Orillia during the spring to early fall months. From the huge and well-attended "scottish Festival" (around the middle of July) to the "Canada Day Celebrations" (July 1).

The written arts are also alive in Orillia. If you are a writer, or endeavouring to be a writer, take a look at the Orillia Writer's Group. As well, one of the very long running awards events in Orillia is the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour.  Stephen Leacock was well known in our area as a writer of humour, and his summer home still stands (The Stephen Leacock Museum) on the shore of Lake Couchiching (open for visitor tours and events).

Local book shops also stock books by local writers, and there are quite a few fairly well read authors. I own books written by several authors from around these parts Some are photo style books, while others are written historical accounts of life in this area. One of my favourite possessions are a couple of books by Loreen Rice-Lucas (sadly, she's gone now) whom I'd known for a number of years, and whose legacy of both written work and ink drawings lives on (locally, you can still buy at the Farmer's Market).

Please note: if you are an artist, musician, writer, actor/actress or involved in other arts areas within Orillia and the surrounding district, please contact me for inclusion the arts section of this site.

If you don't have an online presence but would like to be featured on a page here, contact me and I'll be happy to create one as part of this site.

Orillia Arts Links

Orillia and District Arts Council
Simcoe Artists
Local Historical Art - Orillia Public Library
Mariposa Theatre Foundation
Orillia Beatles Celebration
Orillia Folk Society
Orillia Sunday Evening Band Concerts
Starry Starry Night Gallery Tour
Images Studio Tour
Dave Beckett Art
Derek Wicks
Arthur Shilling
J. Gracey Stinson
Charles Pachter
Heather Waller-Rivet
The Cellar Singers
Orillia Silver Band