Celebrate Culture Days in Waterloo Region

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by Tara McAndrew | October 2021

Across the province communities are participating in a month-long festival celebrating Ontario’s artists and cultural organizations through Ontario Culture Days. Traditionally a 3-day event, it now stretches from September 25th to October 25th thanks to the pandemic. With a focus on digital presentations, DIY activities, and self-guided programs this year, safety protocols can easily be followed while supporting local artists and organizations. In addition, there are limited capacity in-person activities which require pre-registration.

Waterloo Region is bursting with artistic individuals, from musicians to painters to writers to directors, and more! This month-long event is a great way to interact with and recognize the hardworking, resourceful, and creative people in our communities. Read on for information about the various locations for this year’s Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge Ontario Culture Days Events.

Castle Kilbride

There’s a quirky place in Wilmot Township that mixes the “royal” and fantastical in a home built by an enterprising 26-year old and his brother called Castle Kilbride. A visit, either online or in-person, will surely pique your interest as you learn more about “Canada’s Flax and Oil King”, his family’s legacy, and the amazing trompe lœil frescos inside the home. There’s also an online portal which allows people to view vintage photos of Baden, New Dundee, and New Hamburg. This National Historic Site is not to be missed.

Castle Kilbride (Photo: Tara McAndrew)

Waterloo Public Art Route

The City of Waterloo has a sizeable 22-piece public art collection that it’s been building for the past few decades. Chances are you’ve walked or driven by the various art installations before, but have you ever stopped and taken a moment to ponder them? Creative place-making has become an important part of the city’s mandate to grow a well-rounded thriving community in combination with its other strengths like tech and academia.

Some of the public art is permanent and other installations may remain for 1 day to 1 year. The ever-changing landscape of art in the community adds to the excitement of discovering what’s around. Pieces range in size, colour, shape, and even their function. There are nods to the region’s history with art like the “John Labatt Barley Field” and “Gold Queen Hybrid”, as well as whimsical conversation starters like the “Origami Goose” and “Nuts”. Other pieces recognize the importance of the landscape local citizens inhabit, such as “Fish out of Water” and the interactive “Our House”. There is even a huge stained-glass piece created by local high school students! Visit the link here to access the Waterloo Public Art Route.

Photo: Tara McAndrew

Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery

The Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery is an inspiring artistic venue from the inside out. It is the only public art gallery in Canada that focuses on curating art crafted with ceramic, enamel, and stained glass. Patkau Architects designed the Governor General Award-winning space that will wow you as much as the creative designs it houses. In 1982, the Gallery began its journey as a not-for-profit organization and 7 years later construction began. It opened to the public in 1993 and has been a treasured destination ever since among artists and art-enthusiasts nation-wide. The Gallery embraces interactivity, even swapping the official opening ribbon cutting ceremony for a “hands in clay” event!

Whether visitors attend group tours, art camps, workshops and classes, school trips, or virtual viewings, the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery prides itself in welcoming, educating, and inspiring visitors. Its collection includes traditional and new media, such as 3D printed pieces. During the Culture Days event, Yoshiki Nishimura’s “Shapes of Facts” will be displayed and Annie MacDonell’s “Double Real” begins on October 8th. Family Sunday activities are ongoing, as well as Walk the Talk: Stroller Tours.

After visiting the Gallery, enjoy the fresh air in neighbouring Waterloo Park. Be sure to keep your eyes out for the historic Log Schoolhouse, built in 1820, and the playful picnic art, which is a part of the Waterloo Public Art Route.

exterior photo of the Clay & Glass Gallery
Canadian Clay & Glass Gallery

Civic Centre

Kitchener’s Civic Centre has endless opportunities for discovery. A leisurely walk through the downtown core will reveal sidewalks with the names and dates of former businesses, the storied clock tower in beautiful Victoria Park, the old Waterloo County Gaol and former governor’s house, and long-standing Kitchener institutions such as the fashionable Walper Hotel. Artists and families alike will adore the growing (and free!) Downtown Kitchener outdoor Art Walk and the Region’s leading contemporary culture hub, the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, where there is artwork by notable Indigenous artists like Kent Monkman and Shelley Niro. Admission to KWAG is free during Culture Days and there will be a mix of family-friendly events and contemporary art exhibits on during this time. Once you’ve worked up an appetite from all that walking, there are a wide variety of restaurants and takeout options in the downtown. There’s the delicious Vietnamese takeout at Bánh Mì Givral Deli, all-day vegan fare at East African Café and Cafe Pyrus, a highly curated coffee menu at Show & Tell, Latin American dishes at Pupuseria Latinos and Guanaquita Restaurant, and the exciting and eclectic Underground Flavour Group, to name a few.

The Idea Exchange

Next, head to Cambridge’s Idea Exchange Old Post Office where old seamlessly meshes with new in a stunning climate-controlled library overlooking the Grand River. Visit each floor to see the Makerspace, STEAM Discovery Centre, and Creative Studios. If it’s a beautiful day, enjoy a warm beverage and snack while sitting in the Riverview Room or check out the terrace’s green roof. This might be one of the neatest and most multi-faceted building you visit throughout Culture Days, so make sure it’s on your list of attractions to check out!

While in Cambridge, a few other important community spaces to acquaint yourself with are the Design at Riverside Gallery at UW’s School of Architecture and the gorgeous Sculpture Garden where a mixture of temporary and permanent exhibits are displayed.

Cambridge Sculpture Garden

Joseph Schneider Haus

The Joseph Schneider Haus hosted a free Porch Party on September 25th complete with musical performances. This unique home in downtown Kitchener was built in 1816 and is the oldest surviving building in Kitchener. Since 1981 it has operated as a living history museum. The Joseph Schneider Haus is currently open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays for physically distanced visitors. To buy tickets, visit the link here. They also have a mix of virtual exhibits, at-home activities, and even delicious Mennonite recipes on their website!

Three Sisters Cultural Centre

North of Waterloo in St. Jacobs is the artistic hub, the Three Sisters Cultural Centre. Throughout the month-long arts festival the centre will be offering all sorts of accessible outdoor programming next door in The Culture Lot. On October 10th bring the kids for a free puppet show that features traditional Norwegian elements and modern themes to captivate audiences of all ages. From 2pm – 5pm on October 17th there are 2 free textile workshops. Learn about Boro, the ancient Japanese art of mending, and everything you could need or want to know about the technological and artistic history of spinning yarn. To round out the Ontario Culture Day events, join in on a collaboration with The Art District Gallery and the Three Sisters Cultural Centre as they welcome the public to paint on a Van Gogh canvas. Test your luck and enter the draw to win a prize as well!

Historic Cambridge estates

Nearby the Walter Bean Grand River Trail and Devil’s Creek Falls are some beautiful historic estates in Cambridge. Among them is the award-winning Langdon Hall estate. What was originally built in 1898 as a summer home for a wealthy American with English roots, has become a spa, fine dining, and wedding venue today. Another well-known historic Cambridge home is the Cruickston Park Estate which has been featured in several tv shows and movies. This Elizabethan-style manor built in 1856 is now a restored farmhouse complete with cattle, alpacas, chickens, goats, water buffalo, and a goat. There are 2 cottages on the property that you can book through AirBnb as well, including the 3-bed 3-bath Hilltop House.

Langdon Hall Country House Hotel & Spa


Tara McAndrew

Tara McAndrew teaches people how affordable travel really is, how to learn other languages, and where to find the best chocolate around the world. She is currently based in Kitchener creating a very large travel list, thanks to 2020’s shenanigans. She runs the Travel with TMc website, and is on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter as @travelwithtmc.


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