Arts and Culture in Victoria: Vibrant, Creative, and Waiting to be Explored

Many people know Victoria as an important tourist destination, but did you know that Victoria has the highest opera attendance per capita of any Canadian city? Or that the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria has the most comprehensive collection of Japanese art in Canada? Yes, the arts scene is thriving in Victoria, and whether you like ballet or buskers, there is plenty here for any culture maven to explore.

Art Galleries Galore

Victoria is full of art galleries. The biggest and most popular is the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, which is housed in a Victorian-era mansion at 1040 Moss Street. The gallery's permanent collections include over 17,000 works, which are divided into three categories: Asian art, historical collections, and contemporary collections. In addition, the gallery hosts a number of special exhibitions throughout the year, which feature local and international artists.

The gallery opens most days at 10 a.m. (check the their website for up-to date information on their opening hours). Admission is $13 for adults, $11 for students and seniors, and $2.50 for youth ages 6 to 17.

Another important piece of Victoria's artistic heritage is Emily Carr House. Emily Carr was a prolific artist and writer who lived in Victoria in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her post-impressionistic style artwork has come to define West Coast Canadian art, and her writings were some of the first to chronicle life in British Columbia. Her birthplace has now been transformed into a museum and interpretive centre dedicated to her life and work. Inside, you will find a large collection of her art and writings, as well as exhibitions from other contemporary artists.

Emily Carr House

Emily Carr House is located at 207 Government Street. Its summer hours are 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays (closed Sundays and Mondays). Admission is $6.75 for adults, $5.75 for students and seniors, and $4.50 for youth ages 6 to 18.

Insider's Tip: There are also a number of other local art galleries that are worth checking out if you have the time. Open Space, at 510 Fort Street, regularly hosts contemporary art exhibitions that combine different disciplines such as music, media, and performance. Also on Fort Street, you'll find Alcheringa Gallery, which features contemporary Indigenous art from British Columbia and other areas around the world. In Oak Bay, you can visit the gallery of local artist Ted Harrison at 2004 Oak Bay Avenue. Just down the road from there, in Oak Bay Village, you will find a number of artisan galleries featuring paintings, sculpture, jewelry, and other works by Victoria and Vancouver Island artists.

Street Music and Summer Festivals

In the summer, Victoria is as much a cultural centre outdoors as it is indoors. Walking around the city on a sunny day, you will be greeted by a variety of musical offerings from the city's many talented street performers. Along the banks of the inner harbour, you'll find visual artists, cartoonists, First Nations carvers, and musical entertainment of all varieties. Just north of there, on Government Street, you'll find African marimba bands, jazz ensembles, fiddle groups, bluegrass bands, and all sorts of other eclectic musical discoveries.

Insider's Tip: On Sundays, head to Bastion Square between 11:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. for the Sunday Market at Bastion. This weekly market features an eclectic mix of artists, vendors, and entertainment, and takes place in the area between Wharf Street and Government Street, near the Maritime Museum.

The summer is also a great time to check out one Victoria's many music festivals. In June and July, the TD International Jazz Festival comes to Victoria. This multi-day, multi-venue festival features internationally renowned jazz performers of all varieties. This is followed up by the Vancouver Island Blues Bash, which comes to town at the end of August every year. For a different flavour, check out the Victoria Ska Festival in July, featuring performances from ska, reggae, jazz, and punk artists. Another big festival is Rock the Shores, which brings big-name Canadian and international rock and pop musicians to Victoria for a two-day festival in July. Plus, don't miss the Victoria Busker's Festival, a unique festival in July that draws street performers from all around the world. In August, look for FolkWest, an annual weekend-long celebration of folk and roots music. Then, in September, stick around for Rifflandia, where you're sure to discover some great new musical acts. And, for the more classically-inclined music lover, don't miss Symphony Splash, a performance by the Victoria Symphony that takes place on a floating stage in the inner harbour. Finally, theatre lovers and connoisseurs of all things weird will be delighted when the Victoria Fringe Festival comes to town at the end of August each year.

Symphonies, Musicals, Plays, Operas, and More

Fringe Kids Fest

Whether you like symphonies, ballets, or independent theatre productions, you'll be able to find something to suit your fancy at night in Victoria.

The Royal Theatre and McPherson Playhouse are home to companies like the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, Pacific Opera Victoria, Ballet Victoria, and also host performances by international touring companies and performers. Check their calendar to see what's on during your visit.

Insider's Tip: For cheap tickets to great events, contact the box office and ask for preview or standby tickets. If you're willing to watch a dress rehearsal or wait in line for last-minute tickets, you might get the chance to see a great show, and save some money at the same time.

Victoria also has a vibrant theatre scene. The Belfry Theatre in Fernwood Square hosts musicals, comedies, dramas, and more in a beautiful and intimate setting. Also look for great alternative productions at the Metro Studio Theatre, at 1411 Quadra Street. To see what the locals are up to, look for performances by local theatre companies like Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre, Intrepid Theatre, and Theatre Inconnu.

Insider's Tip: For daily event listings in Victoria, pick up a free copy of Monday Magazine from a newsstand or coffee shop, and turn to their weekly calendar for detailed information on upcoming events.

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