Nelson is known as the Number One Small Arts Town in Canada, with artisans and craftspeople in abundance. Local art hangs on many café walls, and you’ll find artisans' wares at several local markets.
Craft Connection, an artist co-op in downtown Nelson, has a gallery and shop space to showcase some of our artisans’ best work. The store itself features more than 150 artists and artisans. Downstairs, Gallery 378 features more fine art and larger pieces.
ÉCONOMUSÉE is an international organization that has gathered local Nelson and area artists, promoting their crafts in both English and French. We refer to this group as Artisans at Work. More artisans are being added annually, continually enhancing Nelson and areas local culture.
The Kootenay School of the Arts is a well-regarded arts school, now integrated into Selkirk College. The College's Fine Woodworking program is one of the best in Canada, attracting students each year from across the country. There is also clay, fibre and metal work programs that attract students from all over.
Kaslo, the "Little Switzerland", is another spirited arts region. Visit the many artisans and craftspeople at their shops along the waterfront, or at markets in the summer and fall.
The drive into the Balfour area has many blue highway markers with a letter “A” designating “artisan” along the road, indicating an artisan's working studio and shop within 3km of the highway. Each August there's a Cultural Tour highlighting several of these destinations (and more across the region), and a brochure is also available from Nelson Visitor’s Centre.
Taking the Kootenay Ferry to nearby Kootenay Bay and the artisan community of Crawford Bay is listed on Trip Advisor as the number one thing to do when travelling in the region. The Artisans of Crawford Bay are well organized and recognized. The main street features independently owned shops with an emphasis on pottery, woven brooms, a forge, handweaving and more. Food and drink options support your visit, while campgrounds and a spectacular golf course invite visitors to stay longer.
Our most recent installation in the Our Place video series features Luke Lewis, mountain biker, sailor, broom maker and inspiring Crawford Bay Artisan at North Woven Brooms. The Lewis family’s handcrafted brooms have made their way into Hollywood movies, Harry Potter book launches and numerous TV appearances, inviting all who come in contact with them to indulge in the beauty and functionality of simplicity.
Farmers Markets and Seasonal Craft Fairs
You can shop for our local artisanal works at many of our local downtown shops (in both Nelson and Kaslo) as well as in artisan studios in Balfour. Many of our local crafts people sell their wares seasonally at both farmers markets and the annual Christmas Craft Fairs that are held in late November in Nelson and Kaslo. Throughout the summer there is the popular Artwalk event in both Nelson and Kaslo as well as the Columbia Basin Culture Tour.
Public Art in Nelson and Kaslo
There is a large inventory of public art throughout Nelson, with sculptures, murals and art infrastructure created by both local and international artists. Walk about town and you'll be impressed and hopefully moved by what you see. Kaslo also has a collection of art throughout the village, with stores and artisan shops displaying their wares on Kaslo's vibrant streets.
Read our visitors guide online or order a copy of the official visitor's guide and map for our region.