Posts tagged Kawartha Arts Festival
The Kawartha Arts Festival: 30 Years and Counting

Submitted by Belinda Wilson, on behalf of the Kawartha Arts Festival Board

With the 30th Annual Kawartha Arts Festival behind us, we’ve had time to reflect on how we got here, and what the future holds.

The first event was held in the Bobcaygeon Library in 1989, but it had already outgrown that space by the time the Festival opened, and so it moved to the Ag Building at the Fenelon Fairgrounds the next year, with 24 local artists exhibiting their work. 

A silent auction was held in the middle of the building, with pieces donated by the artists. As the number of artists grew, the space was required for booths – now artists donate pieces which are used for hourly draws all weekend.

The Labour Day Weekend event used to kick off with a Friday night Wine & Cheese party for the artists to relax and socialize after getting their exhibits set up and ready.

Festival organizer Maud Skoog remembers that “the opening used to be a pretty big deal – the Reeve of the Village and other dignitaries were always on hand to do the official ribbon cutting”. One year, Maud recalls, Lieutenant Governor Lincoln Alexander attended, and took the time to greet all the artists.

As the Festival grew, it began to attract artists from across the province – many opted to arrive Saturday morning to set up, and the Friday evening event fell by the wayside. Now, with as many as 110 artists converging just a few hours before opening, Saturday morning is hectic, to say the least. Artist packages must be delivered to each booth, last minute glitches and relocations have to be dealt with, and no matter what, at 10:00 AM everything has to be ready when the gates open.

In the 1990’s the Festival introduced “Young at Art” – this opportunity for budding young artists to participate has helped to launch the careers of several artists, including local painter Markus Leydolt and well-known Toronto artist Peter Rotter.

The Kawartha Arts Festival continues to evolve as times change. In the early years, only original pieces were permitted to be exhibited. However, in order to allow the artists to generate more sales, prints are now allowed.

A new and popular addition in recent years has been the Fabric Art tent, and as trends shift and new (or newly rejuvenated) art forms present themselves, the Festival committee will continue to reach out to these artists, inviting them to submit their work for consideration.

Live music keeps the Festival visitors entertained, and the Fenelon Ag Society food booth keeps them fed as they enjoy the last days of summer surrounded by the beauty of art in all its forms.

What brings artists back year after year, and what attracts new artists, is the Festival’s reputation of being “by artists, for artists.” Many have commented that it feels like a family gathering, and a spirit of community is tangible as the weekend unfolds. They enjoy the little treats which are delivered to their booth on Saturday morning, and welcome the personal attention as committee members make the rounds throughout the weekend to ensure everything is going smoothly.

Maud credits the support from the community as a big reason the Festival has continued to flourish; the ongoing sponsorship and assistance by Kawartha Dairy, Cable Cable, Pinder Electric, Handley Lumber, BOB-FM, Oldies 96.7, Classical 103.1 FM, Van Halteren Music, Grr8 Finds Markets, Fenelon Agricultural Society, The Kawartha Store, and The Village Shop has always been very much appreciated.

As with any community endeavours, KAF volunteers are indispensable – from the Festival Board and its year-round work, to the folks young and old who help out in so many ways over the course of the Festival weekend, each one’s efforts are vital to its success, year after year.

Moving forward, the Festival plans to reintroduce a Friday evening event for participating artists and is looking at a new layout for the grounds in order to accommodate more marquee tents and to change things up a bit.

Now in its 31st year, the Kawartha Arts Festival continues to be the largest juried outdoor art festival in Southern Ontario – Labour Day Weekend 2020 will see the Fenelon Fairgrounds alive with artists, music and a celebration of the best of the human creative spirit.

A Year of Art in Fenelon

Submitted by Chris Van Lierop

It has truly been a year of art! I was sent an email the other day and asked to highlight some of the changes that Fenelon Falls has seen this year and so many of those changes have an artistic flair!

Most recently we saw the Fenelon Marquee turn its lights on; a wonderful restoration project that will light our way down Water street and the Trent Severn Waterway.

Earlier this year we saw the addition of decorative metal banners by Christina Handley on the bridge, welcoming visitors into town, and we also saw a lot of art programming happen this year in Fenelon: the Kawartha Yarn and Fibre Festival kicked off its first year with lineups to get in and is happening again this year; in addition to their robust new programs and events this summer, Maryboro Lodge: the Fenelon Museum opened its new play space where kids can play with toys and sketch to their heart's content.

The Colborne Street Gallery opened and exhibited ‘Cottages’ by Joan Horsfall Young, and the Kawartha Lakes Arts & Heritage Trail maps and signs popped up at many places throughout town showing tourists what culture in the Kawartha lakes is. This year, the Kawartha Lakes Country Living Show doubled attendance from the previous year, and for the first time included artist studios for 10 artists to showcase their work.

The Horticultural Society added a new rain garden to their mix of gardens throughout town and the colorful and fun splash pad opened at Garnet Graham Park to much fanfare. You may have also noticed the large triangular stones which have been erected in several spots about town - these stones will soon bear etchings with directional information, to help visitors find their way around.

It's been a great year for Fenelon Falls that has also included the addition of several new businesses helping to fill some empty storefronts, and a new "bike-share" system at Lock 34 that you can use to get around town.

I’m looking forward to next year where we will see the continued expansion of natural gas into Fenelon Falls by Enbridge, the introduction of a walking tour to downtown Fenelon Falls by Maryboro Lodge, and the 30th Anniversary of the Kawartha Arts Festival amongst many other exciting things to come.

With the election happening as I write this I’m reminded that we all get to cast our vote on who helps us continue to move forward and show our greatest side. We’re so thankful to the creativity we all bring to this wonderful town and the great businesses and volunteers who help make it the vibrant place it is.

The Kawartha Arts Festival

Written by Chris Van Lierop


It’s almost that time of year again: the Kawartha Arts Festival. Over the Saturday and Sunday of Labour Day weekend, the festival will be celebrating its 29th year.

The festival has grown to be one of the largest arts festivals in Southern Ontario, hosting 120 artists. This year, the Kawartha Arts Festival is proud to be hosting many local artists, but as the only show hosting the works of Indigenous artist Kris Nahrgang this year, they are doubly proud to be showcasing his work.

Earlier today at the CNE Kris unveiled his newest work, the Unity Pole. At 28’ the pole will be one of the first commission pieces purchased by the CNE since the 1940s. The pole was created to offer a story of Unity, and healing for all Canadians. Read more here:

Kris is the Chief of the Kawartha Nishnawbe First Nation and holds an eagle
feather, the highest honour a chief can receive. It was bestowed on Kris four times in recognition of his tireless work as a community organizer and advocate. It will be a true honour be able to see his art in person.

Also at the show, you’ll be able to see many different genres of work including Oil & Acrylic by Fenelon artist and festival organizer Maud Skoog, Watercolors by Bobcaygeon artist Elly Wilson, pottery by Port Hope artist Brenda Sullivan, sculptured glass by Campbellcroft artist Lee Shelton and many more.

As you may have noticed by the success of last June’s Kawartha Yarn & Fibre Festival ( these traditional textile methods have become the rage again - they’re certainly not just for your Grandmother anymore! At the show, you will find weaving by artist Janis Huisman and textiles and fibers by Amor Tenggardjaja, and many more.

Other local artists featured can be found on Every year the Kawartha Arts festival continues to grow, now attracting thousands of visitors annually. This year you can catch a shuttle bus from the Fenelon Fairgrounds for easy access, and there will be artist demonstrations and some ‘Young at Art’ displays. You’ll even be able to walk
around with our beloved Kawartha Dairy Ice Cream.

We hope to see you at the festival. Donations are a big part of what keeps the festival running and with each of your donations, you will be entered in a draw for door prizes.

Can’t wait to see you there!