Rails End Gallery and Arts Centre THEN
We have a good time looking after our great space - inside and out!
Our welcoming new patio on a Tuesday afternoon
York Street promenade - new in 2011 :)
The Waiting Room - love the windows and the view of Head Lake.
Now our douglas fir floor (c. 1878) has seen everything!
Great acoustics! Albert Saxby and Brandon Humphrey live at Rails End.
A fine space for making art with friends.
New work in an old space by renowned Canadian ceramist Ying Yueh Chuang
Rails End Gallery and Arts Centre
Rails End Gallery and Arts Centre is a public art gallery located in Haliburton's historic railway station. In 1980, a group of committed artists and arts-minded individuals were granted use of the decommissioned station by the township. The Gallery is the steward of this grand old building, which now houses two exhibition spaces and a gallery shop. The 1878 structure retains its original look from the outside, and many inside features such as the original ticket window and "wire from here" sign remain. The building has a wood frame exterior, cedar shingles, and the painted exterior is true to what would they would have been in the heyday of the lumber trade in Haliburton County. Today, the economy of the area is driven by tourism and a thriving arts community centred on the Gallery and Haliburton School of The Arts (founded by the same intrepid group that secured the railway station for the gallery).
The building is approximately 100 feet long and 30 feet wide, consisting of the "waiting room" (community gallery), "ticket room" (gallery shop), and public washroom and "baggage room" (main gallery and performance space). The floor in the latter space is Douglas fir, circa 1878 and each board is approximately 4 inches thick with a slight crown. There are spaces between the boards that make it impossible to wear heels, but results in perfect acoustics (along with the vaulted wood-lined ceiling). In 2005, renovations were made and it is now fully accessible and heated for year-round use. In 2009, new landscaping created a welcoming perennial garden, pathways from the park and street, a broad ramp and entry, and a patio where seasonal activities take place, e.g., snow carving in February, and artist demos in June.
Rails End Gallery and Arts Centre is a community gathering place and a cultural hub in Haliburton County. It presents approximately 11 exhibitions each year, ranging from professional contemporary art installations to high school exhibitions. The annual salon invites the community to participate with works inspired by the Highlands and to have their say by voting for The People's Choice. It is a member of the Ontario Association of Art Galleries and the Ontario Crafts Council and strives to meet professional standards, provide dynamic arts programming that appeals to audiences interested in both local heritage and contemporary craft and visual art.
The main gallery is the former baggage room of the station. Every week, a community drum circle happens, attracting people from all walks of life. This main space can accommodate 50 people and is an intimate venue for CD releases, readings, impromptu theatre, workshops, and meetings – all amidst whatever exhibition happens to be on the walls.
Rails End has its roots in craft so you will find contemporary craft exhibitions here as well – most notably the Ontario Craft Council's Juried Exhibition in 2010, and the 2012 Fireworks – Ontario Clay and Glass Association Biennial Juried Touring Exhibition.
Admission is by donation and the Gallery is open year round. In 2011, there were 13,000 visitors. (The population of the township is 5,600). It is a favourite destination for tourists, students attending Haliburton School of The Arts, local artists, and travellers.
People, past and present, make this a great space. There is talk that perhaps a ghost or two inhabit the building. During the community drum circle, there are times when voices seem to sing along – and there is likely a scientific explanation, but who wants to hear that? The space is enlivened by the rhythms and that is what matters. Being in the main space, surrounded by art, inspired by art, touched by art through the eyes and ears and heart is a moving experience made more powerful by knowing the history of the space.
The main champion of this space has been the tenant – Rails End Gallery and Arts Centre. This charitable organization is devoted to bringing art to life in Haliburton and celebrates its 50th anniversary next year. A volunteer board of directors leads a group of dedicated volunteers who work hard to raise funds to operate the gallery for the public good, with staff support and provide public arts programming. The Municipality of Dysart et al, (the township) generously provides an annual grant of $50,000 that is approximately 1/3 of the operating budget. The Ontario Arts Council, the Ontario Museums Association, Human Resources Development Canada, and the Ontario Trillium Foundation, an agency of the Province of Ontario have all provided grant support for human resources to keep the space alive with programming.
This space is well-loved in the community and counts the following organizations among its friends, partners and supporters: Haliburton Business Improvement Area; Haliburton Chamber of Commerce; Haliburton and District Lions; Haliburton Rotary (who donated $10,000 toward the outdoor patio); Haliburton County Development Corporations; Haliburton Folk Society; local businesses (especially those on Highland Street and York Street); the hospital; our schools; Arts Council Haliburton Highlands; and Fleming College. We all support one another with marketing through Facebook, Twitter, and we partner on events when suitable.
Community groups have been instrumental in providing public programming by providing the talent and labour behind events: For instance, Playback Theatre uses our space to present free impromptu theatre; Abbey North Drummers led two 24-hour drumathons to raise funds for AIDS relief in sub-Saharan Africa; Toastmasters brought public speaking to our town. Community groups advocate for the Gallery and the space, help to promote the space as a cultural hub, and when needed, lend a hand with gallery projects that require more hands than our volunteers can muster.
This space is important to our community for several reasons:
- it is one of the few remaining structures from our past in the village core
- it is a reminder of our railway history
- it welcomes visitors to the village with open arms – the volunteers and staff are intangible assets that bring this space to life for all
- it is the only public art gallery is the township
- the programming that takes place in the space is excellent, interesting and creative. It is something to be proud of and celebrated.
- the space helps bring art to life in Haliburton for residents and visitors
Because the space has been here for a long time and is still full of life, it is a place people return to, tell tales about, recollect experiences, bring friends and family, show off, take care of, invest time and energy in, and deeply care about.
When it came time to decommission the railway station, planners were involved in a study that resulted in documentation of the structure and plans for its rehabilitation. Back in 1980, the building was saved and began to be used as a seasonal art gallery.
In 2004, engineers and architects came back into the picture when the township and the gallery secured SuperBuild funding to raise the structure and winterize it. They preserved the essence of the place in what was an affordable, practical solution to the years of wear and tear on this venerable old station. (The building was the end of its life and the line, literally – not just as the name Rails End suggests).
A local architect and a landscape designer gave their time to the outdoor landscaping project the gallery did in 2009, opening the structure to the street, and leading the way for a recent streetscape improvement the township has just completed (with considerable engineering and landscape architect involvement).
Most recently, the gallery, with support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, an agency of the Ontario Government, insulated the cellar and did major furnace remediation. This required engineering again. There have been considerable financial constraints on each step of the way toward rehabilitating the structure and keeping it in operating order. With the help and advice of planners, architects, and engineers, the gallery, as stewards of the structure, has done an excellent job of preserving a piece of history in a small corner of rural Ontario.