Four ways to get involved in the Kingston arts community

It’s not hard to indulge in art, as long as you know where to start

A crowd gathered in front of the stage at The Mansion
Image supplied by: Journal File Photo
A crowd gathers at The Mansion during a Queen’s Poetry Slam event

First-year students are often unaware of the city beyond campus, let alone the vibrant arts community that exists in Kingston.

The city is home to a thriving art scene in all its forms, from visual art to theatre to poetry. Organizations like the Kingston Arts Council ensure that the community keeps thriving.

With such an array of events and ways to get involved, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Here is a list of four simple ways to get involved in the Kingston arts community on and off campus, in no particular order:

Take advantage of The Screening Room

The Screening Room is Kingston’s independent movie theatre. The entrance, which is wedged beside a sushi restaurant, can be easy to miss when passing by.

With free posters available at the box office entrance and two-dollar mugs of tea for sale at the snack counter, The Screening Room is a small theatre with character.

The theatre offers a retreat from an everyday commercial theatre, combining the experience of seeing a film on the big screen with the comfort of watching at home.

The theatres are small and cozy, with seats nearly as comfy as a couch. The screen is small enough that it isn’t intimidating when you have to run out to the bathroom, and sitting in the front won’t give you a crick in your neck.

The Screening Room offers a special student price of $6 per ticket offered every Thursday — a much-needed departure from the wallet-emptying ticket prices at commercial theatres. 

Although The Screening Room is a particularly suitable place for lovers of art-house, foreign, alternative and classic cinema, the theatre also balances its more cerebral content with regular showings of current Hollywood releases Mr. Holmes and Learning to Drive.

Support Kingston’s homegrown theatre

Kingston is home to several theatre companies, which produce plays and musicals throughout the year. The companies are diverse in their approaches, and each aims to bring something new to the Kingston theatre scene.

For instance, Blue Canoe Theatrical Productions often adds site-specific and interactive theatre elements to classic Broadway musicals, with an added focus on promoting younger theatre professionals looking for opportunities in the industry.

Their production for the Kick and Push Festival, A Chorus Line, altered characters in the original musical to push social boundaries, and included an additional ticket to let audience members take part in the play themselves. 

SALON Theatre Productions, a Kingston-based acting troupe, is another option. They produce theatre to educate its audiences about Canadian history.

Queen’s University’s drama department has also produced shows like Legally Blonde, which carve out a place for drama students to create and produce shows themselves and create an accessible space for students to enjoy theatre. 

Whether it’s a Shakespeare production or an original musical performed at The Grand Theatre, Kingston’s enthusiasm for fresh and diverse theatre is always worth exploring. 

Volunteer with one of Kingston’s many festivals

Kingston hosts several festivals that are always looking for volunteers. They’re more often scheduled during the warmer months, but some run over the course of the long winter. 

Kingston’s festivals vary from the Kingston Canadian Film Festival in late February, which promotes and celebrates Canadian film, to Kingston WritersFest — to be held later this month — which brings bestselling and notable Canadian writers to Kingston. 

Wolfe Island, a small island on Lake Ontario, hosts the Wolfe Island Music Festival every August. The island is a 20-minute ferry ride from downtown Kingston.

Each of these events relies heavily on volunteers, with many of them students. If you’re looking to get involved in the local arts community, these festivals are an accessible way to become a part of local art while bringing it to others.

Attend or perform at any of Kingston’s open mic nights

Whether you’re sipping a beer at The Mansion while watching slam poets or drinking a latte at Coffee & Company as a musician’s voice fills the room, open mic nights are popular amongst younger crowds looking to meet nwq people and enjoy local performances.

Frequent open mic venues include Coffee & Company, Musikkii Café, The Sleepless Goat, The Mansion, The Grad Club and several branches of the Kingston Frontenac Public Library. 

With so many cafés and bars in Kingston, hopping onto the open mic bandwagon is an easy and inclusive way to support local artists. Open mic events are a good place for finding local Kingston talent and an outlet for students to share their own poetry or music.

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