Once the home to many iconic Canadian artists – Group of Seven’s Franklin Carmichael, folk singer Gordon Lightfoot, and world-renowned sculptor Elizabeth Wyn Wood, just to name a few – Orillia has nurtured and celebrated its relationships with the arts for over a century. From Canada’s most iconic music event The Mariposa Folk Festival to vibrant street festivals, events are one of the ways the cultural life of the city is put on full display.
It was Canada’s beloved literary humourist, Stephen Leacock who first coined Orillia’s moniker as the Sunshine City in his internationally acclaimed novel, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town. Today, the author’s treasured Orillia summer home is protected and upheld as a National Historic Site, meticulously well-kept true to Leacock’s life. Visitors are invited year-round to explore the museum’s exciting interchanging exhibits, inspired by Leacock’s love for the arts and his famous friends.
On September 9, the Leacock Museum will present the brand new exhibit; Decoding Anne Lister: History’s First Modern Lesbian. This exhibit will focus on the life of this revolutionary British lesbian while exploring themes of Canadian Queer history, the art of code breaking, and the world in which Anne Lister existed.Visit the museum
Streets Alive, a distinctive living art project, presents life-size sculpture installations throughout the downtown core from spring to fall. Touring the city will showcase some of the iconic pieces from previous years permanently erected by the sponsorships of local businesses, painting a colourful view throughout the streets. It’s in the core’s cultural hub – The Orillia Arts District – where one of the event’s most recognized pieces is situated, four towering sculptures presented in the form of hand-painted letters that spell out the word GORD – a tribute to Orillia native and folk legend Gordon Lightfoot. This year’s theme presents over 60 hand-painted guitars and sculptures in tribute to the late artist, erected throughout the downtown core.
A collection of independent galleries, studios, and creative-driven workspaces line the Orillia Arts District. Throughout the summer months, street festivals invite visitors to explore what’s up and coming from the area’s artisans through organized art walks and live creation viewings.Learn more
Recognized by its historic, eye-catching clock tower, the Orillia Museum of Art and History sits on the cornerstone of the district. First erected in 1894, the designated heritage site is a fitting location to celebrate the stories of Orillia’s cultural life and early beginnings. The museum is organized with both history and art exhibits showcased evenly throughout the year, along with all-ages workshops, youth camps, and special events open to the public.Visit the museum
The Sunshine City packs a robust public art scene which colourfully decorates the City’s winding trail systems, points of interest, and heritage buildings. From public gallery spaces and displays at the Orillia Recreation Centre and City Hall to major waterfront landmarks and colourful trailhead markers, each corner Orillia offers something new to discover. Try your hand at finding all 18 points of interest on the City’s Public Art Map, or, tour the newest addition to the lineup; Crossroads, Connections, and Intersections, a series of 9 original art works installed at 7 of Orillia’s trailheads.Public Art in Orillia
A cultural tour of the downtown isn’t complete without a visit to the city’s historic professional performing arts venue; The Orillia Opera House. For over 100 years the Opera House has brought world-class talents from all mediums to perform in its nearly 700-seat theatre. Well-known for its resounding acoustics and historical charm, the affectionately named Lightfoot Auditorium has featured iconic artists such as The Marx Brothers, Blue Rodeo, and of course, Gordon Lightfoot himself. If you’re looking for entertainment, this is where you’ll find it.upcoming events
Canada’s troubadour, singer-songwriter, and international folk legend, Gordon Lightfoot once called Orillia home and never forgot those humble beginnings. If you find yourself in Orillia, looking to celebrate the author of Canada’s great songbook, be sure to stop by two statues in Lightfoot’s honour. Outside the Orillia Opera House is a bronze bust sculpture, erected in 2017 in honour of Lightfoot who often returned to Orillia to perform at the Mariposa Folk Festival, Orillia Opera House, community events and fundraisers, or just to stop by for a visit. Visitors and locals alike visit Tudhope Park for its lakeside views and winding trail system. The park is also home to the statue “Golden Leaves” depicting 26 leaves honouring the songbook of “Gord’s Gold” album.upcoming events
Learn more about Orillia’s vibrant cultural life by visiting the city’s Arts, Culture, & History page of our website.
Interior photo of Orillia Museum of Art & History provided by Cole Bennett.
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