14 March, 2024

How Community Art Is Boosting Trails Tourism Across Canada

Art being displayed on the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge with onlookers walking by

What role does art play in society? It inspires. It calms. It helps to express emotion; it brings out emotion. Landscapes along the Trans Canada Trail have inspired countless artists and are the sites of some of Canada’s best-known artworks, including several pieces by the famed Group of Seven. Bringing art and culture outside can also contribute to the trail user experience – and have positive effects on trails tourism. Our Benefits of Connecting Canadians study demonstrates how trails act as a driver for local tourism. What’s more, a recent study from the Ontario Arts Council found that arts and culture tourists often stay longer and represent a diverse international demographic – a demographic eager to visit national parks and historic sites as part of the cultural experience.

There are countless examples across the Trans Canada Trail of how art contributes to trail users’ experiences, how it provides an entry point to vibrant artistic communities across Canada, and even how trails – and nature – inspire artists to create.

Exploring Indigenous languages in Winnipeg with the Speech Act

The Speech Act can be found directly on the City of Winnipeg Trail. It was created by artist Ryan Gorrie, a member of Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek. The Winnipeg Trails Association and Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art Gallery worked together on the project, an interactive installation that engages the public through art and story – and by doing so, increases awareness of Indigenous culture and language. The installation provides an opportunity for visitors to the Trail to pause, reflect and learn. At the same time, it brings a new experience both to trail users and to those in the artistic community.

Creating visibility for local artists in the City of Fredericton through an art walk

An artist working on art on the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge with community art displayed behind them.

In June 2023, the City of Fredericton held a Trail Care event along the City of Fredericton and Valley and South Riverfront trails. In addition to activity booths, group walks, community kiosks and much more, they organized an art walk, featuring local artists’ work, which was placed along the 600-metre Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge along the Trans Canada Trail. Stephen Marr, Vice President of the Fredericton Trails Coalition, recounts, “A warm and sunny mid-day trail exhibition turned out to be perfect for the 40-plus local artists who populated the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge, connecting Fredericton’s north and south shore trails together both physically and creatively. Artists promoting trail use and active healthy lifestyles!”

Promoting literacy for all ages on the Storybook Trail

Storybook trail poster displayed along the trail

When Woodstock Trans Canada Trail Association teamed up with the local library to bring books outside, the organization’s president, Jennifer Campbell, was looking to increase trail use by families and at the same time promote literacy and a love of learning for young residents and visitors. “The reception was phenomenal,” says Jennifer. “We were thrilled to see and hear how much people loved the idea of the storyboards along the Trail. Encouraging children to exercise, practice reading skills and discover new books and authors is a win-win-win.”

“We’ve noticed that using the Trail is a means of creating community,” she continues. “Residents, visitors, pets, seniors, newcomers and tourists are mingling and chatting – and the trail is busier than ever!”

Inspiring creation along the Trans Canada Trail

David Kearn, an artist, working on his art on the grass section of the trail

As a counterpoint to how art can enhance trail users’ experiences and boost trails tourism, trails can also inspire. For artist David Kearn, trails mean “access to the natural world, as well as a connection to other places and communities. As an artist, it provides endless streams of seasonal themes,” David explains. There is “a sense of connection that is fundamental, elemental even, about human movement along a trail,” he continues. David recently published a book of plein-air paintings, One Summer along the Trans Canada Trail, a series of landscapes he painted along the Trans Canada Trail in the Ottawa region.

The intersection of trails, tourism, art and nature is one of the key themes of the World Trails Conference, taking place in Ottawa from September 30 to October 3, 2024. Trail enthusiasts, sector leaders, outdoors professionals, academics and trail groups hoping to explore trails and their connection to art are welcome to attend. Learn more about the conference, or register now.

Thank you