Arts and Culture Halifax Diaries
In a city surrounded by ocean and forest, beauty is hard to miss in Halifax. These natural elements have been inspiring people for millennia so it’s no wonder that Halifax has such a rich artistic and cultural vibe too. This eventually became the inspiration for this article so others could enjoy some of the cultural gems in this fantastic place! Here you’ll find museums of art, history, and even aviation, as well as musical events, film festivals, and places that preserve the way life once was. There’s even a place to go to celebrate a far-away culture as well! And don’t forget to find your piece of culture to take back home with you which you can also find in some of these locations. Read on and pick some of your favorite cultural hotspots to visit!
Picture Credits: Art Gallery of Nova Scotia Halifax
What’s life without art, and boy does the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia have it! With 17,000 works in their permanent collection, they are the largest art gallery in Atlantic Canada. What a great (and impressive) date night that would make! Before you go wining and dining a trip to the gallery will ensure you have plenty of discuss over dinner. They also feature an impressive collection of indigenous art in their permanent collection as well. The perfect way to get a feel for the area’s indigenous past and a taste of the area’s future! Opening 7 days a week in the summer, this makes for an excellent cultural addition to any stay in Halifax.
Picture Credits: Halifax Pop Explosion
For 27 years now, the Halifax Pop Explosion festival has been bringing the best of up-and-coming local talent to center stage. It’s now a city wide music takeover with music performances continuing for 4 jam-packed days in multiple venues across the city! Not only have they been keeping Halifax bumpin’ and jumpin’ but they’ve put the city on the international music industry’s map. This is a big chance for performers to be recognized for their talent and make it big! It’s also your opportunity to see some of these insanely talented groups before that happens too. There’s also space to discuss the current state and future of the industry itself. So it’s a great way to get involved in the future of this industry with some of the best minds in music!
Picture Credits: Nocturne – Art at Night
There’s something about nighttime that makes the senses come alive, isn’t there? Nothing makes that more true than Nocturne: Art at Night – an art festival that takes place between the hours of 6pm and midnight. This year’s main event is set for October 19 so start planning your trip now! They have a variety of visual art on display and you’re free to roam and enjoy all of it. The best part of course, is that this stunning event is free! Their exhibits focus on regional, national, and international representation so you’re sure to get a unique feel of Halifax. Be sure to check out their website to see how you can get involved and support local art too. You can even download an interactive guide for your phone that will take you around the festival!
Picture Credits: FIN Atlantic International Festival
FIN Atlantic International Festival is one of Canada’s premier film festivals and certainly not one to miss! Whether you’re a film buff or not there’s definitely something for you in this 8-day film extravaganza. It’s the perfect way to see Canada’s history and culture on display on the silver screen! They’re planning a bit of everything for the 2019 lineup, from informative pieces to a Mamma Mia! singalong. Now that’s what I call a well-balanced festival. 2019 passes are available now so don’t miss your chance to get connected to Atlantic Canada’s film and filmmaking culture. Check back in August to get a taste for their very own podcast, FINcast with discussions about the films and the amazing people making them too. I’m sure it will be a highlight of your trip to Halifax!
Picture Credits: Blue by Toni Losey, (2018) Photo credit Toni Losey
One of the best ways to get to know the culture of a new area is to experience its local art and handmade items. Get to know Halifax a bit more by checking out the Centre for Craft Nova Scotia! Currently on display in the Mary E Black Gallery are two exhibitions: Woven Woods by Lorrianne Roy and Patterns of Growth by Toni Losey. Together these exhibitions combine ceramic and textile art to explore natural (and fun) organic forms. In true Halifax form, it showcases the interplay between forest and ocean to tell a story you can’t read in any book. This exhibition is on display until the end of August so make sure you don’t miss it! The center also offers courses for those looking for a more hands-on experience. Pro tip: go across the street to check out the Designer Craft Shop to get a piece of art to take home with you! Their offerings are as varied as the artisans they feature and it’s a great way to find something unexpected.
Picture Credits: The Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum
The Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum is an original Cole Harbour farm, cultivated continuously for over 200 years. Now that’s some living and breathing history! It encompasses 8 heritage buildings, and is a true celebration of Halifax’s rural past. You can get an up close and personal look as you learn about traditional (and adorable) farm animals that were kept. You can even play some traditional games that helped pass the time too! And of course, let’s not forget the home cooked food in the Rose and Kettle Tearoom before you go. Do you think you have what it takes to live like a rural settler? There’s only one way to find out! This is your chance to see history with your own eyes and learn from local experts on staff too. Do your part to make sure this important piece of history is kept alive for generations to come!
Picture Credits: Studio 21
Studio 21 has been exhibiting and selling the best contemporary Canadian art for over 30 years. Thus making it a well known pillar of culture and art in Halifax. With half of their works coming from Atlantic Canadian artists, they are regionally minded too! Featuring new and emerging artists it’s a great place to experience the evolving face of Atlantic Canada too. In fact their summer exhibition FRESH introduces 3 emerging artists to the gallery for the first time! What a great way to immerse your senses in the living and breathing culture of a new place. This space also functions as an educational space for both locals and visitors, making it a must-see location for everyone. And don’t worry, this studio offers framing and global shipping if you fancy bringing a piece of local art home too.
Picture Credits: Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum
Dedicated to the preservation of civilian and military aviation history, the Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum has an impressive collection on display. More than 20 aircraft are available for you check out everyday! Then even have a full size replica of the first aircraft to fly in Canada, the Silver Dart. And who hasn’t dreamed of being able to fly, this is the next best thing! They also have a program designed for younger visitors so they can live their aeronautic dreams from the safety of the ground. Open since 1985, these guys are true experts and have a lot of knowledge to share with the public. In addition to the aircraft the museum also has hundreds of historical artifacts which will give you a whole new appreciation for this artful form of engineering.
Picture Credits: Made in the Maritimes Artisan Boutique
Made in the Maritimes Artisan Boutique is more than an award winning craft store, showcasing local art, craft and specialty goods from over 150 local artisans. It is the place for handcrafted, local art too! Located in the Hydrostone Market, their Halifax location is the perfect place to get a piece of Halifax to take home with you. They have things for every budget as well, so don’t worry if you are looking for something small enough to fit in a small suitcase or bag too. They were even awarded Top 5 Craft Retailer in Atlantic Canada by Craft Alliance Atlantic Association. You’re sure to find something of quality and local taste for yourself or for anyone else!
Picture Credits: King’s Co-op Bookstore
Love books and a bit of a scavenger hunt? Then check out one of Canada’s Hardest to Find Bookstores, King’s Co-op Bookstore! Hint, it’s located on the campus of the University of King’s College… This bookstore is owned and run by a co-operative blend of students and members of the community. This makes a unique blend of university bookstore and regular independent bookstore in one! Not only do they stock coursebooks, but they offer a selection of titles in fiction, non-fiction, and philosophy too. Interestingly enough, this bookstore is the first in Canada to host their own podcast! Their show is called Bookings (a portmanteau of Book and King’s) and features interviews with authors and scholars about their books. Make sure to give it a listen on your favorite streaming platform!
Picture Credits: DustJacket
Attention book worms, this one’s for you! DustJacket Books & Treasures is a wonderful hidden gem of Halifax that is built for book lovers! Originally built as a source of antique and maritime books, they now have all sorts of topics and themes in their store. That means even more for you to leaf through to your heart’s content! They even have an online catalog of their collection you can check out before you visit if you like. Get a piece of Halifax history and culture you can take home with you. And thankfully books take up very little room in a suitcase! And we all know a well-selected book makes a great gift to a fellow bibliophiles of any age too. Pro tip: they offer a 10% discount for students on Mondays so make sure you don’t miss out!
Picture Credits: The Ikebana Shop
Ikebana, while traditionally referring to the art of Japanese flower arrangement is also the name of this adorable shop for all things Japanese! True aficionados of Japanese culture and art, the staff of The Ikebana Shop are seriously passionate about what they do. This is the place to introduce authentic Japanese culture and aesthetic to your life and home – without leaving Halifax! If you’re a huge fan of origami, bento boxes, traditional Japanese pottery and incense like I am, you simply must go. They have almost anything you could hope for and they will even ship it to your house for you – amazing right? With advanced notice they can even prepare a private workshop for you and your group on some classic Japanese arts. Of course they’ll teach traditional ikebana but also tea tasting, origami, japanese cooking, and traditional blade sharpening!
Picture Credits: Acadian House Museum
Come discover the history and secrets this 200 year old Acadian house holds! The Acadian House Museum is a piece of history that’s still thriving thanks to its dedicated staff and thoroughly educated guides. Composed of the main house, the “barn”, the Gallerie, and the café this museum really takes you back in time! While the house itself preserves the home living style of the Acadian people, the Gallerie is set up for special cultural events too. Don’t forget to check out their website for a full list of events (great for the kiddos too!). The café, called “La cuisine de Brigitte” serves up home cooked meals as well as some traditional Acadian dishes. With more people in this area learning French, visitors may get a chance to experience this area’s French-speaking past as well. Don’t miss your chance to see and support these locals taking back their history with pride.