Arts and Heritage

Where the spectacular landscape stirs the artists’ soul, here you will find over 200 artists, working in every media imaginable. We invite you to discover the power of artistic inspiration in Headwaters.

Located just 45 minutes north of Toronto lies the scenic Headwaters region – home to a vibrant and inspired arts community!

Known for rolling hills, deep valleys, spectacular fall colours and the unique headwaters of four major river systems, it seems our exciting landscape has stirred the artist soul.

In the Hills of Headwaters there are over 200 artists working in every media imaginable. Painters, potters, ceramics artists, glassblowers, woodcarvers, weavers, sculptors and jewellers all create here – in styles that range from classical to contemporary to avant-garde!

Every season studio tours and art exhibitions are launched! And every autumn the Headwaters Arts Festival kicks off its 17-day celebration of the region’s finest artists, artisans and performers with 65 events in over 30 venues.


Standing proudly over falls that were harnessed by pioneering settlers 130 years ago, the Alton Mill Arts Centre is now a vibrant arts centre featuring some 20 artists and artisans in working studios, 5 art galleries, hand-crafted jewellery and clothing designers, a heritage exhibit and café.


In Headwaters our artists find inspiration all around…

…and you’ll find them wherever you look. The sign you just passed points to a lane between rows of sugar maples and leads to a studio. That artist has set up an easel beside the road where you stopped and has given the view another life. You really should see what he sees.

Our artists are not only inspired by what they see but also what they touch and hear. Old trees are turned into bowls to reveal the marvelous colours, hills and valleys in the grain… or they are carved into shapes you have to feel to fully appreciate. Ancient rocks are polished and set in mosaics or hammered with steel into sculpture. Nature’s sounds inspire music and song. Even the words of our people are grist for stories and plays.

History, beauty and art are everywhere here. The spectacular landscapes of the region offer unending inspiration for our artists and, in some cases, the raw materials for the arts they create! In every village, town, hamlet and indeed throughout the countryside, you will sample as much diversity in the art as you will in the landscape.

So come for a visit and be inspired! Every rural back road, from Mulmur to Terra Cotta, is a potential scenic drive and a chance to sample the magnificent landscapes so often transformed on the artist’s canvas. Century homes, schoolhouses and historic buildings rejuvenated into galleries and studio spaces offer a glimpse of our proud heritage. Along with world-class restaurants, professional theatre, museums and unlimited recreational possibilities, the region embodies a unique beauty. And amidst the beauty and history, you will experience first-hand where our inspired artists (and the patrons who support them) live, work….and play!


Our artists are easy to find.

You can walk down Broadway in Orangeville. See a Theatre Orangeville play by a writer who grew up in the hills. Walk on the creaking floors of Dragonfly Arts on Broadway, marvel at the art on the walls, and talk to the artists as they work. In Shelburne you can hear the music that has passed down through generations and talk to the musicians who play the same fiddles their great grandfathers played. In Alton you can spend a day in the studios of Alton Mill Arts Centre where one winter’s night the black smoke and hot fire of birch bark made a steel sculpture glow in the dark. Bolton and Caledon, Melville and Erin, Belfountain and Cataract, Hillsburgh and Terra Nova… ‘most every small town and village is home to a studio or at least an artist or two.


We can show you where to go.

For decades, annual studio tours have guided visitors to artists they’d have never found otherwise. Their works you have probably seen – illustrating books you’ve read to your children, in Dufferin County Museum and Archives, the AGO and other downtown galleries, bronzes standing guard in front of office towers in distant cities, in the Vatican, presidential and royal collections. But the studios you find by following maps down the back roads.

The artist may be in her own studio, eager to talk about the work and its inspiration; to show you the looms and yarns from sheep and alpaca that grazed the nearby hills; to show you the process where a lump of clay takes an ancient Chinese shape; how a glass rod becomes a bead surrounding a miniature world. She may serve fresh fruit, cheeses and homemade cookies, perhaps a glass of wine, and on a cool fall day, a steaming cup of mulled cider to take away the chill. In other places, the artists come together in casual co-ops. In the converted drive shed you’ll find acrylics and watercolours, clay and bronze, jewelry hand made, bead-by-bead or shaped in silver and gold. In the back of the barn extraordinary tables and chairs that still hold the curves of the trees they are made from.


Let us work with your ideas.

In Headwaters, you can even commission our artists to sculpt or paint your inspiration; you can bring pieces of wood for them to shape; ask them to make a service for your dining table alone. Come. Engage our artists. Seek out the Tours and Open Houses. Take part in celebrations. Or best of all, get in the car and take a back road just to see where it goes… and make your own discoveries.


Headwaters Heritage

Headwaters is blessed to have amazing resources that celebrate the rich heritage of our region.

History comes alive in our region’s antique shops such as Inglewood Antique Market, or check out a country auction – they happen throughout the year, and are not only a great chance to pick up some great deals on all kinds of items, but are truly a tourism experience in themselves!

The Dufferin County Museum and Archives is located in the scenic hills of Mulmur Township on Highway 89 between Shelburne and Alliston. Built in 1994 as a “repository for material culture.” It is an impressive structure that many like to refer to as the “Guggenheim of the north.” Located on a six acre site is a rather high tech 26,000 square feet barn. This is not a historic barn but was specifically designed to represent the agricultural history of the area. Learn more about how the facility came to be in this ArtsBuild Ontario Case Study.

At the Museum visitors enjoy changing artifact displays, an art gallery showcasing the works of local and featured artists, staffed municipal archives for family and property research, a gift store, and an annual schedule of special events, tours and programs. Take an opportunity to picnic among their beautiful gardens as you take in the majestic view of the surrounding countryside. Hike the Dufferin County Forest, Bruce Trail and parks and conservation areas minutes from the Museum. Discover the many fine restaurants, shops, resorts and other attractions nearby that the Headwaters Region has to offer.

DuffStuff is an online research site containing historic information on the people, places and various subjects concerning our area.

Visitors to the Caledon region of Headwaters can experience our rich history at venues like the Alton Mill Arts Centre which offers something for everyone with its unique combination of arts, culture and heritage. Thanks to organizations like Heritage Caledon and the Belfountain Heritage Society, preservation of the area’s historic structures is ongoing for visitors to learn about and enjoy. Read these historical tidbits to discover more about Caledon’s history.


Be inspired in Headwaters – just steps from the city, yet worlds away!

Turn down a road just to see where it goes… quietly through trees and quick shafts of sunlight. Leave the dappled shade and climb a gentle rise, then stop because what you see now takes your breath away. The world has opened. Under the bright blue sky… rolling hills and sharp cliffs, trees trees trees… and a distant open field where cattle are grazing. Far below, the bright glint of a tumbling stream echoes the sunlight.

As you drive down the hill that moment fades to memory. Why, you wonder, can’t you capture and save what your eyes can see?

We do.