History of the Elora Fergus Arts Council

The Elora Fergus Arts Council is a non-profit organization committed to the encouragement and promotion of the arts in Centre Wellington.

Plein Air in Elora 1956

n the spring of 1985, several people gathered at the Elora Mill Inn to inaugurate The Elora Arts Council (EAC). At that time there were already numerous arts related activities established in the area. All the arts were alive and well. The new Arts Council sought to build on these and other initiatives in a growing artistic community.

Since 1985, the Elora Arts Council has endeavoured to provide opportunities for all artistic disciplines:

  • In its founding year, EAC assumed the operation and funding of the INSIGHTS Juried Arts Show, which predated EAC by five years. In 1986, the show expanded to include new disciplines. The exhibition took place over a period of one month in the Wellington County Museum’s Exhibition Hall. Since 2002, the duration of INSIGHTS has been extended, and the show can be viewed throughout the summer. INSIGHTS is one of the oldest and largest exhibits of art in Ontario, celebrating 40 years this summer, and continues to be run by a citizens’ volunteer group through the Elora Arts Council.
  • In 1987, an annual Youth Concert was initiated, providing an opportunity for young musicians to gain experience in performing before an audience. These concerts have now expanded to two a year.
  • In 1987, EAC organized the first Elora-Fergus Studio Tour with 18 studios participating on one weekend. Since 2005, an exhibition of participating artists has been held at the Elora Centre for the Arts. By the autumn of 2018, the number of studios taking part had grown to provide economic opportunities for over 40 area artists on two weekends.
  • In the fall of 1988, EAC acquired a Yamaha Grand Piano, presently housed in the Exhibition Hall of the Wellington County Museum. The advent of the grand piano made possible the development of the non-profit Gallery Concert Series, and the Gallery Music Group was formed. Six low-cost concerts are offered every year in conjunction with the Wellington County Museum. This group remains affiliated with EAC.
  • In September 1989, EAC sponsored and organized Youth Art Classes in co-operation with the Wellington County Museum. These classes continue to flourish, now entirely under the auspices of the Museum.
  • The Elora Writers’ Festival, initiated in 1994, attracted many well-known authors to an afternoon of readings in early summer. In 2003, the Elora Writers’ Competition for youth and adults was added, and over 100 entries were received from across the world. Having celebrated 25 years in February 2019, organizers of the Festival have taken a break and no further festivals are planned.
  • Puppets Elora was founded with support from EAC in 1994. The group visits many schools, performing original plays written for and by the participants. This independent organization remains affiliated with EAC and recently celebrated 25 years of performances with the exhibition “A Peak Behind the Curtain” at the Wellington County Museum.
  • 1997 saw the launch of Profiles I¸ a compilation of the profiles of artists of the greater Centre Wellington area that had previously been published in the EAC newsletter Communiqué. Profiles II, published in 2005, marked the 20th anniversary of the EAC with a new print format that presented the profiles of 75 individual artists, written from 1985 to 2004. Communiqué continues to feature artist Profiles as it records activities of the EAC four times a year. To date some 150 Profiles have been written and archived.
  • The EAC organized annual sculpture shows from 1998 to 2002. From 1997 to 1999, it sponsored film festivals in conjunction with the Gorge Cinema. Art in the Park was an important summer exhibition for EAC from 1989 to 2000. The group gave support to a Children’s Choir in 1996, and co-sponsored a study on Sustainability of the Arts in Centre Wellington in 2004. In addition to these activities, annual innovative fundraising events were supported by many artists in the community.

Recording these activities continuously over the years has been Communiqué, the newsletter of EAC.

  • In 2002, a new Art in Public Places committee was formed with the purpose of enriching the exteriors and interiors of our community with visual art. Since its initiation, Art in Public Places has organized some 180 exhibits for artists in the Township of Centre Wellington Council Chambers in Elora, the lobby of Groves Memorial Hospital in Fergus, and the two boardrooms of the Centre Wellington Sportsplex in Fergus. Exhibits are changed four times a year, and the window of the Gregory Oakes law office in Elora is changed every month.
  • The Elora Arts Council, an entirely volunteer organization, has been recognized twice to date by the Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce for its contributions to the community. In 2004 EAC received an Award of Excellence for “significant contribution to Centre Wellington’s cultural environment through distinguished service or artistic achievement”. In 2011 EAC received a second award for “long dedicated service in the business community of Centre Wellington”.
  • In 2015 the EAC initiated a lecture series featuring five local artists. To date 17 artists and musicians have shared their art and experiences with the community through the Art Talks held at local public libraries.
  • Launched in 2016, Elora En Plein Air invites artists to capture the charm of the village of Elora and the town of Fergus, the river gorges and rural vistas in an open-air painting competition. The festival has proved to be a valued economic asset to Centre Wellington, bringing new artists and buyers to the community and raising visibility of the area as a tourist destination. In addition to the May weekend event, a Winter Paintout was held for the first time in November 2018.
  • At a Special General Meeting on June 10, 2019 the membership of the Elora Arts Council voted to adopt a more inclusive name — Elora Fergus Arts Council — to reflect the geographic area served by the Council.
  • In November 2021 the Elora Sculpture Project, approached the Arts Council about associate membership and was warmly welcomed. Established in 2010, the Sculpture Project is a community initiative managed by a small group of dedicated volunteers in cooperation with the Township. Works are selected annually by a jury for a rotating exhibition of outdoor sculptures on dedicated sites in Elora and Fergus from May to October.