Confederation Centre, Canada's memorial to the founding of the country, presents the Confederation Players. Take a stroll through Charlottetown's historic district with the...
Open Studio Experiences
On specific dates throughout the season, province-wide Artisan Open Studio Experiences give the culturally curious an opportunity to meet our artisans and explore their working studios in more depth. As part of the Island Fusion Festival, on June 22, PEI Artisan Open Studio Day will have all 26 Artisans available to welcome you at their Studios. A calendar of Open Studio Experiences is found at www.ArtisanPEI.com
Human Heritage Experiences
PEI’s cultural sector has always been experience oriented. A night at the theatre or a ceilidh ensured the visitor took home a unique memory and maybe even a new dance step or two. Now, the experiential element of Island culture takes you beyond viewing to hands-on learning experiences in intimate settings. Island cultural masters (music, art, dance, craft, fishers, farmers, etc.) will share their passion with you. Whether you want to develop your creative abilities or try your hand at a traditional Island skill, you’ll find your opportunity through our human heritage experiences.
Visitors to PEI have long cherished Island-made arts and crafts as keepsakes and one-of-a-kind gifts. As PEI’s artisan sector has grown, so has its offerings and quality. PEI is a craft lovers paradise with craft, antique shops and art galleries dotting our Island landscape.
The People’s Poet
Born in Charlottetown in 1923, Milton Acorn was a carpenter who became one of Canada’s finest and most loved poets. To his peers he was known as “The People’s Poet”, an artist who never lost touch with his working-class background. Acorn remained an approachable and unique individual until his death in 1986. His poems such as I Shout Love, and I’ve Tasted My Blood, and collections such as Dig Up My Heart and In Love and Anger, give readers a taste of Acorn’s artistry. Milton Acorn’s poetry can be found at the Confederation Centre Library or online at the University of Toronto Library.
PEI is all about community, and that’s why you’ll find dozens of community museums across the Island. Located in historic buildings, on heritage sites and at contemporary interpretative centres, these essential archives celebrate our heritage, architecture, industries, military history and art. For an authentic look at our way of life, spend sometime at a community museum.
As an Island, the sea has been an integral part of the livelihood, visual landscape and recreational life of Islanders for centuries. Built to warn ships of dangers at sea and as a beacon leading safely to port, lighthouses have been an essential nautical aid here since 1845, when PEI’s first lighthouse was built. Today, visitors can tour many of our lighthouses and lighthouse museums to explore their critical role in our maritime heritage, or simply to enjoy the beautiful vistas they create along our coastline.
Island artisans have long appreciated the aesthetic value of the sea glass found along our shores. Sea glass is broken glass that has been smoothed by the sea and sand. The frosted glass, in soft hues of blue, red and green, is incorporated into the work of select PEI jewelry makers.
With our strong Scottish roots here on PEI, it’s no wonder that the Highland Games are a popular event for locals and visitors alike. Highland sports demonstrations and competitions, Highland dance competitions, and the pipes and drums are just some of the sights, sounds and experiences you’ll encounter at Lord Selkirk Provincial Park. This is an Island tradition that the Caledonia Society of PEI has presented since 1864!
The Many Faces of Anne
So well-loved is L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, that she has had many incarnations since being introduced in 1908. Montgomery herself wrote nine Anne novels and two others in which Anne makes an appearance. Montgomery’s original has been adapted for the TV and film screen at least six times, including a Japanese animated TV series, and three sequels to the original produced for Canadian television. It has also been mounted for the stage. Anne of Green Gables presented by the Confederation Centre of the Arts is Canada’s longest-running musical. Anne & Gilbert, the newest Anne stage musical, is now presented at the Harbourfront Theatre in Summerside.
PEI on stage
The depth and diversity of the Island theatre community will surprise you. In communities across PEI, the stories of Islanders and our neighbours are being told onstage. Take in Acadian entertainment at the Centre Expo Festival Centre. Visit the evocative and intimate productions at Victoria Playhouse, King’s Playhouse and the Montgomery Theatre. Community theatre takes to the stage at the St. Peter’s Court House Theatre and the Britannia Theatre in Tyne Valley. In our cities, Summerside is home to the Harbourfront Theatre, while Charlottetown hosts The Gotta Go Festival at The Guild and the Charlottetown Festival at the Confederation Centre of the Arts.
With a heritage steeped in the arts, PEI has always been about honouring the traditional while embracing the new. As technology has become more user-friendly, recordings by PEI artists can be heard online. Their music videos and concert clips populate websites, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Our filmmakers have also taken to the web, creating several web series such as Bunny Bop, Food Country with Chef Michael Smith, Bunker down, Jiggers, Faces and Hands, Ponderings and Profile PEI.
William Critchlow Harris, Architect
In 1856, at two years of age, William Critchlow Harris emigrated from Wales to Prince Edward Island with his family. After apprenticing with an architect in Halifax, Critchlow returned to PEI and became an architect of renown,specializing in the design of churches. His work mixed elements of Gothic styles; his earlier designs following the High Victorian style, and his later, the French Gothic style. Fine Island examples of Harris architecture include Beaconsfield in Charlottetown,and St. Mary’s Church in Indian River, home of the Indian River Festival. William is the brother of Robert Harris, founding member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Art, who is famous for his portrait of the Fathers of Confederation.
Our Cultural Composite
The population of Prince Edward Island is now more diverse than at any other time in its history. Though the overwhelming majority of Islanders would identify as Canadian first, our cultural makeup includes Scottish, English, Irish, French, Acadian, First Nations, Lebanese, Chinese, Dutch, and a number of others. Recently, the Island has seen a significant amount of newcomers arriving from Asia-Pacific, as well as those from Africa and South America, all enhancing the social fabric of PEI.
As you travel the Arts & Heritage Trail, you’ll notice icons representing quilt squares on some of the participants’ buildings. These eye-catching quilt boards denote trail participants and provide an artistic visual as you travel across PEI. Each has been designed to reflect the personality of its associated business, organization or site, while helping to identify the Island’s cultural community.
Ceilidhs & Kitchen Parties
Islanders love to have a good time, and everyone is always welcome to join us! Ceilidhs (pronounced “kay-lees”) traveled to the Island with Scottish and Irish newcomers (Irish spelling “céilí”), while Kitchen Parties arrived with new Canadians from France. Both are music and dance-filled celebrations that you’ll find in community halls and on stages across PEI.
Lucy Maud Montgomery
Born in Clifton (now New London), PEI in 1874, Lucy Maud Montgomery would become one of Canada’s most famous and cherished writers. With 20 novels and hundreds of poems in print, it was Anne of Green Gables, her first published novel (1908), which put the author on the map. Montgomery’s imaginative and passionate redheaded orphan would become a phenomenon, with over 50 million copies of the first Anne book sold worldwide. Though she died in Ontario in 1942, Maud’s final resting place is at the Cavendish Community Cemetery, here in her beloved PEI.
Robert Harris, Artist
Born in 1849, Robert Harris would become famous for his portraits and is recognized as one of Canada’s great artists. The Harris family, including his brother William (see page 14), emigrated from Wales to Prince Edward Island. Robert studied art in Europe and in Boston, returning to the Island in 1879. Though he would later live in Toronto and Montreal, Harris remains very much an Island artist, with portraits of Islanders featuring significantly in his body of work. His painting Fathers of Confederation has become an iconic Canadian image. Harris is buried in Charlottetown’s St. Peter’s Cemetery. An extensive collection of his work is housed at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in Charlottetown.
PEI’s arts and heritage festivals are in full gear year round. However, things really heat up in the summer! Music fans visiting will want to take in the Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival in Rollo Bay, the Indian River Festival, the Jazz and Blues Festival or just find the nearest ceilidh. Festivals will not be faraway. For those who favour a taste of tradition and heritage,the Mermaid’s Tears Sea Glass Festival, the Tignish Irish Moss Festival, The Belfast Highland Games, and the Mount Stewart Eagle Festival all fit the bill.
Abegweit Panmure Island Pow-Wow
For the past 20 years, the Native Council of Prince Edward Island has presented the Panmure Island Pow-Wow. This pow- wow is open to the public, free of charge, all donations are welcomed. The weekend shares aboriginal experiences such as traditional art and crafts, dancing,drumming, sweat lodge, and a traditional feast. Drawing approximately 3,000 visitors annually to the Panmure Island Cultural Park, the Pow-Wow has become one of the Island’s premier cultural offerings.
Canada is Born
In September 1864, delegates from PEI, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the province of Canada (Quebec & Ontario) arrived in Charlottetown to discuss the possibility of creating a nation that would stretch from sea to sea. When “The Fathers of Confederation” came ashore in rowboats no one was there to greet them. A circus was in town and most Islanders were in the audience. Despite this less than stellar beginning, consensus was reached to move forward with the concept of the new “Canada”. For this reason, PEI is referred to as “The Birthplace of Canada” and “The Cradle of Confederation” . Join us in 2014 as we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference!
Scan Me! (QR Codes)
If your smartphone has an application that can read QR codes (Quick Response codes), scan the codes you’ll find in venues throughout the Arts and Heritage Trail and you’ll be taken directly to the website. These QR codes are a convenient way to make an immediate link between a site, product or organization and its website. You’ll find scannable QR codes attached to the quilt icon signs along the trail, giving you another source for visitor information.
PEI Heritage Places
Living in the Birthplace of Canada, Islanders have firsthand experience with cultural heritage and its preservation. Our diminutive Island is home to more than 850 Heritage Places. These places, recognized for their historical importance include public buildings, churches, lighthouses, residences, parks, pioneer cemeteries, heritage roads, commercial buildings, barns, and schools. Information on the historical significance for each place, a brief history, photographs, address and GPS coordinates can be found at peihistoricplaces.ca. As some recognized heritage places are private residences, please note that not all are open to the public.
When the Dominion of Canada decided to build its cross-country railway in 1871, PEI had not yet joined Confederation. PEI determined it would be beneficial to construct its own railway. The financial obligation brought by this island railway propelled PEI into joining the New Dominion in 1873. Trains remained active on PEI until December 31, 1989. The heritage of our railway can be experienced through community museums such as the Elmira Railway Museum.
Today, PEI’s train routes have been converted to 400 kilometers of walking and cycling paths that take you into the wetlands and hardwood groves, through quaint villages and along sparkling rivers. The Confederation Trail is a treasure for nature lovers, artists, hikers,and photographers or anyone looking to spread a blanket for an afternoon picnic.