Take a walk on Kingston’s artsy side

Expand your horizons by checking out the community’s vibrant art scene at these local venues

The Artel provides artists with a space to present their work.
The Artel provides artists with a space to present their work.
Modern Fuel is a great place to see interdisciplinary exhibits.
Modern Fuel is a great place to see interdisciplinary exhibits.
The Wellington Street Theatre is an intimate theatrical venue.
The Wellington Street Theatre is an intimate theatrical venue.

Plunked right between Toronto and Montreal, Kingston gets more than its fair share of artists and events coming through. The town’s also abuzz with its own home-grown culture and nightlife—bursting the Queen’s bubble is always a little refreshing. Although Queen’s campus has its fair share of film, art and music events, broadening your scope to include Kingston’s venues will show you what the community has to offer in terms of entertainment.

Ale House
393 Princess St.

More than just a venue for cheap drinks, the Ale House has hosted quite the repertoire of live acts, including bands such as Feist, Stars and the Cliks. Part of the dance floor transforms into a stage that many bands and artists of the CanRock persuasion have graced. Large and multilevelled, the Ale House provides the audience with the choice of sitting back and enjoying the music or hanging out close to the stage. With the return of live music on Wednesday nights, concert-goers can expect a continued concert pulse from the Ale House.

Upcoming events:

Joel Plaskett Emergency—Oct. 24; Cuff the Duke—Nov. 21.

The Artel
205 Sydenham St.

An artist collective with a live-in space, the Artel has transformed its living room into a gallery and cosy concert venue. It strives to provide emerging artists with support by making an open and affordable space available for presenting their art. There’s a focus on discussion amongst artists and the community, evident in their aesthetically interesting and often political exhibits as well as in the Artel’s readiness to lend the space to artists and artist groups. Art exhibits, concerts and live performances of music, spoken word and live magazines like Works Cited can be found in the Artel in abundance. The Artel’s concert series snags notable indie bands and artists on the verge, often pairing them with local musicians such as the Dirty Colours and Nich Worby. Due to noise regulations Artel concerts tend to start on time and end before midnight, unlike most other Kingston venues.

Upcoming events:

Music: Jen Grant—Sept.13, Geoff Berner with Carolyn Mark—Sept. 27
Art: Bats in our Belfry: tenants of the Artel—Sept. 13 to 30.

Domino Theatre
370 King St. West

Domino Theatre is home to the eponymous non-profit amateur theatre company and down the street from Queen’s campus. Entering its 55th season, Domino Theatre is rich in Kingston history and is continuing its tradition of open auditions. Truly a community theatre, the not-for-profit theatre relies on the community to act in and help run the plays, all for free. The compact theatre of 130 seats is host to one of the busiest theatre troupes in Kingston as Domino Theatre puts on seven plays every year. Since the theatre is constantly full of people rehearsing, building sets or performing, the space isn’t generally open for any other groups to use; however, the theatre does use university student actors in their plays.

Upcoming events:

Waiting for the Parade —Sept. 6 to 22; The Dresser—Oct. 18 to Nov. 3.

Elixir Nightclub
14 Garrett Street

Tucked just around the corner from the hub, Elixir is a bit of a wild card when it comes to entertainment. Most often a dance venue with DJs playing house, rap and reggae, the bar has hosted national acts of all genres from rap to alternative. Concerts are usually Tuesdays and Thursdays with dancing and special drink nights filling up the rest of the week. The bar is also open to local concerts and is a spot to catch Kingston rock bands. Maybe it’s simply the distance from the Hub, but Elixir feels cleaner than most student bars. Also, the wall and ceiling acoustics offer great sound for concert and dance nights at the venue.

Joy Supper Club
178 Ontario St.

The closest you’ll get to urban club life in Kingston is probably Joy Supper Club, with the club’s rotation of imported DJs from Montreal, Toronto, New York and Chicago on Fusion Fridays. A former restaurant and concert venue, Joy now focuses solely on clubbing. It offers rap, hip hop, house, funk, groove disco and more in a sleek atmosphere—complete with VIP lounge—for those students who miss the clubs of their home cities (i.e. Toronto and Montreal). The former home of the Cocamo, which upper-year students may remember as a grungier club frequented by first- and second-years, Joy underwent a lot of changes, including an updated sound system, in the last year before settling into the nightclub that it is now.

Upcoming events:

Fire & Ice Party—TBA; DJ Tony Cruz—every Saturday.

The Merchant
6A Princess St.

For a back-to-basics pub-and-music night, the Merchant is your best bet. Located way down at the end of Princess Street near the waterfront, it may seem like a hike but it’s not as far as you think. It offers a traditional pub atmosphere where listening to a band will most likely go hand in hand with a pint or two. Queen’s alumna and songstress Morgan Sadler plays the Merchant on a weekly basis and blues-folk singer Emily Fennell is a regular feature as well, so you can always count on the Merchant for a quality live music show any time of year.

Upcoming events:

Morgan Sadler—every Monday;
Emily Fennel—every Wednesday;
Limestone City Blues Festival—every August.

Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre
21 A Queen St.

There’s always something going on at Modern Fuel, whether it’s an interactive contemporary art show about cyborgs or a concert of experimental rock gems. The centre has exhibitions, film screenings and artist residencies that bring artists into the community to show their art and work with the community’s artists. It’s the place to catch local, national and international artists in diverse fields dabbling with visual art as well as interdisplinary, music and film. This non-profit organization’s aims go beyond just displaying art: they involve bringing mentorship, collaboration and discourse to Kingston’s artistic community. Intensive in vision, Modern Fuel is the venue for students looking to get involved with the contemporary art scene through internships, volunteering and even showcasing their work in the members’ gallery. A joint project with Union Gallery is in the works for student artists to join and show in both galleries. Recently the gallery has been used as a concert venue but the space is booked solid through the fall with installations so the funky and relaxed shows probably won’t make a return until January. In the meantime there are quite a few visual, and some interactive, art shows to check out.

Upcoming events:

30th Anniversary Exhibition—Nov. 13 to Dec. 22;
Cyborg Hybrids: KC Adams—Oct. 3 to Nov. 7;
State Greetings: Robert Jelinek and Mark Prier—Aug. 22 to Sept. 29—Reception Sept. 15.

The Screening Room
120 Princess St. (Second Floor) moviesinkingston.com

Sure, the Screening Room is located in a mysterious indoor mall, but once you find your way there you’ll gain access to all sorts of alternative, international and Canadian films from low to Hollywood-sized budgets. The selection is small, with usually between two and three movies running, but it rotates enough to bring fresh movies to Kingston; the emphasis seems to be on quality, not quantity. The Screening Room is also a sponsor and host of the Kingston Canadian Film Festival—if you keep your eyes peeled you may catch Don Mckellar or Sarah Polley presenting their films. Student discounts are available and Tuesday night tickets cost only $5.25. As an added bonus, there are no commercials and only a couple of trailers in the previews.

Wellington Street Theatre
126 Wellington St.

This neo-gothic building may look ominous but it’s actually a lifeline for theatre in Kingston. The Wellington Street Theatre, located relatively close to campus and downtown, is filling the gap the Grand Theatre left behind when it shut down for repairs last year. A high-arched, beautiful ceiling and an art gallery upstairs would make the theatre a curious and worthy stop, even if it weren’t host to musicals, plays and concerts. The theatre puts on plays by professionals from Toronto, Queen’s professors, Kingston high schools and local amateur groups. The space is also accessible for students and the community: the theatre is affordable and encourages students to rent out the space for their plays—handy, since performance space on campus is at a premium. It’s the home of Theatre Kingston and last year Single Thread Theatre of Queen’s began using the stage. Admittedly, the acoustics are probably better suited to an intimate concert than a large-scale musical. The Wellington Street Theatre, though small with 180 seats, is still an important part of theatre in Kingston.

Upcoming events:

Private Lives—Oct. 3 to 14;
Pirates of Penzance—Nov. 6 to 17.

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.