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The East Coast art scene is vibrant, diverse, and evolving. This region is known for its wealth of creativity and a laid-back vibe in its many gallery spaces that bridge the gap between established and emerging artists. Summer is the perfect time to explore the exhibitions, be inspired, and maybe fall in love with a piece of art to take home. Here are four galleries from around Atlantic Canada that you need to see for yourself. 

Laurie Swim Gallery,
25 Cornwallis St. 
Lunenburg, N.S. 

Art that uplifts the spirit

The first thing you’ll notice as you walk towards the Laurie Swim Gallery, at the corner of Lincoln and Cornwallis streets in Old Town Lunenburg, are the elegant, huge windows that allow you to peek in. Next, step inside and whirl away in a sea of colours, textures, and fine art.

First are the quilts by the renowned artist herself, Laurie Swim. Every quilt tells a story in fabric and thread, tales of loss and longing, of wistfulness and peace, of the sea that defines so much of the town and its surroundings.

Alongside Laurie’s original textile pieces, etchings, prints, and books, the gallery carries a selection of unique Atlantic artworks, including bronze sculptures by Chippie Kennedy, photorealistic oil paintings by local Bruce Henderson, and mixed media, including pencil drawn panels by Nancy Macdonald, large acrylic landscapes by Emily Graetz, colourful abstract pieces by Nadine Belliveau, and textile sculptures by Jane Whitten.

The gallery was renovated the over winter and is ready for a busy summer, with new inventory and exciting pieces from the artists. It has multiple new series filling the fresh walls with colour and excitement. The gallery is also bringing on new artists, including Lio Lo from Shelburne, known for her watercolour and acrylic landscapes.

“We pride our gallery on the diversity of skill, talent, and mediums that are presented in this space. We have expanded the spectrum of sizes and styles that we curate, creating a moving experience for anyone that comes through our doors,” says gallery manager Emily Graetz.

Among the season’s highlights is Laurie’s series, The Blue Ribbon: Our Shared Resource, the Gulf Stream, which the nearby Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic will host in 2025.

Laurie is making her quilt using eco-dyed fabrics, and has brought on additional artists: from Norway, Solveig Ovanger and Ingrid Larssen, and from P.E.I., artist Jane Whitten to collaborate with her on the project.

Teichert Gallery

Teichert Gallery
1723 Hollis St., Halifax, N.S.
A city gallery with lots of heart

A stone’s throw from the acclaimed Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Teichert Gallery on Hollis Street in Halifax houses one of the largest collections of East Coast art in the region. Visitors have easy access to over a thousand paintings. "Teichert is a non-profit gallery and is among just a handful of galleries in Canada that operate with an art rental model. Whether a client rents or purchases artwork, funds go towards ongoing donations to support the Permanent Collection at AGNS with over a million dollars being donated to date." says gallery Executive Director Andrea Smith.

“The rental program is a unique opportunity, patrons can date the art before they marry it,” says Smith.

Before stepping into the gallery, curious art lovers can browse the collection on the Teichert Gallery website, and preview the rotating exhibitions that the downtown Halifax gallery has planned for summer and fall.

In May, the gallery hosts a Spring Group Show of current gallery artists. In June, visitors to the gallery will experience the work of Halifax artist Lynda Shalagan, and her exhibit Enchanted Earth, a series of paintings that reflect her interest in the natural world.

In July, when the East Coast is in full bloom, the exhibit space shifts to multi-disciplinary artist Alison Mitchell’s Serious Flowers. She’s based in Lunenburg, N.S., and celebrated for her fibre art and colourful but simplified figurative paintings. August heats up with the revealing of new work from Jeremy Vaughan.

As summer fades into fall, patrons are invited to the gallery for the Halifax Art Map event that celebrates the artistic endeavours of artists throughout Atlantic Canada.

Teichert Gallery is named for Irma MacQuarrie Teichert, a founding member of the non-profit. Teichert passed away in 1990 but her passion and vision for the East Coast artistic community continues to guide the gallery into the future.

The River Gallery

The River Gallery on Water Street,
49 Water St., Pictou, N.S.
A kaleidoscope of colour and joy

Maybe you wouldn’t expect to walk into a gallery and see a grand piano holding pride of place. But visiting The River Gallery on Water Street in Pictou is not an ordinary experience. Gallery owner and multidisciplinary artist Vivianne LaRiviere launched the business in June 2022, less than a year after moving to the town in summer 2021.

Vivianne is a painter, a songwriter, music teacher, and spiritual arts practitioner focusing on the transformative power of the arts when dealing with grief. She also dabbles in photography and writing. She is the creative force behind SASWE, an all-natural line of body products, made with a base of sage and sweetgrass. The gallery also showcases the wares of many local artisans, specializing in ceramics, rug hooking, wood turning, jewelry, and many other favourites. The River Gallery on Water Street also has its own brand of coffee, locally roasted by Meeting Waters — an aromatic blend topped off with notes of cinnamon and cocoa. Visitors will also find the ever-popular Peace by Chocolate confections, Turkish towels to complement the body care items, and a number of gently used books and vinyl records.

Vivianne designed the gallery to be a diverse and welcoming place. She doesn’t host formal exhibitions so much as shows for the creators whose work is at The River Gallery on Water Street. There have been singalongs at Christmas, a classical concert in conjunction with the deCoste Centre for Arts and Creativity, and plans for shows from more of the artists exhibiting at the gallery.

Vivianne is proud of the artists she represents. “These artisans love their craft, and it shows in their work,” she says. “Voices in the wood, in the glass, in the jewelry.” She feels love surrounding her as she looks around at all the colour, the brightness and the joy in the products, adding, “All the energy and the hard work that has gone into making each of these unique items, the masterful craftspersonship … It is a kaleidoscopic infusion of joy.”

Vivianne hopes that everyone will experience some of that colourful infusion of joy when visiting the River Gallery on Water Street.

Art Lab Studios and Gallery

Art Lab Studios and Gallery,
121 Main St., Parrsboro, N.S.
The little gallery that could

Vibrant small towns are the artforms that local champions of change create. In Parrsboro, N.S., on the famous Bay of Fundy, Art Lab Studios and Gallery is the epicentre of innovation transforming the quiet fishing town into a lively arts community.

Art Lab Studios and Gallery is located at 121 Main St., Parrsboro. The citron green gallery door is often open wide in summer, welcoming locals and visitors alike into the energetic creative space, where artists work. Summer is a busy teaching season. It’s a serendipitous encounter if you venture in when students and instructors are immersed in learning new techniques. The diversity of the art frequently shifts, creating a unique living-gallery experience.

Michael Fuller, Jill Langford, Krista Levy Odlin, Isidora Spielmann, and Krista Wells are the artists in residence and collaborative team.

“I think the most interesting thing about Art Lab is the model that we have embraced so successfully: that of a large space dedicated to the active creation of five local artists who, working independently, also work collaboratively in ensuring a high level of creative output in a very inviting and attractive environment,” says Michael Fuller.

Complementing the in-house art are rotating displays from other notable artists and educators.

“Our instructors constitute a diverse and well-known faculty and during their time in residence we feature an exhibition of their work for a period of four weeks. So, you may visit and find a recent Tom Forrestall exhibit or Wayne Boucher, Joy Laking, William Rogers, or Susan Paterson,” adds Fuller.

From June 19-23, 2024, Art Lab Studios and Gallery joins forces with Parrsboro Creative in the delivery of the Parrsboro International Plein Air Festival. Talented plein air painters will flock to the streets, beaches, farms, and fields of Parrsboro to paint in the moment and sell their work — sometimes before the paint has dried. The festival continues to grow annually, illustrating the importance of the East Coast creative economy.

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