Southampton has been Bruce County's destination of choice for artists, students and visitors interested in the appreciation, study, and enjoyment of the Arts since 1957, when Bert Henderson founded the Southampton Art School.
It began with about a dozen students and the $40 fee for one week included tuition, accommodation and meals. Housed in a building constructed in 1888 that James Howe then bequeathed to the Town in 1912, on the condition it always be used for cultural purposes, Bert's vision was for the School to carry Southampton's name far past the borders of Bruce County. Bert saw an opportunity for Southampton to distinguish itself not only as the oldest port on Lake Huron, but as its cultural epicentre and had big dreams for the growth of the School as a driver of Southampton's renown and prosperity.
The school’s original advisory board included three members of Canada’s original Group of Seven including artists A.Y. Jackson, Lauren Harris and Arthur Lismer. Iconic Canadian artist Alex Colville also lent his support on the initial board, a legacy of excellence and response to the Canadian landscape that still permeates the spirit of Southampton Arts.
In 1986, a group of arts loving community members formed the Southampton Arts Society as a registered non-profit charity. It provided a focal point for local artists and art lovers to appreciate, create and enjoy art, as well as providing support for the School.
The Gallery began in 1999 as a co-operative formed by Carol Cleary and Tanya Weichel and now features the talent of over 30 local artists, housed in light filled upper and lower galleries of the historic Southampton Town Hall.
In March of 2017, the organization changed its name officially to the Southampton Arts Centre, more commonly referred to as Southampton Arts.
Today, this vibrant non-profit organization runs a thriving summer educational program featuring artist led educational experiences for both children and artists as well as the Gallery, continuing a legacy of providing support for both the making and the appreciation of fine art and craft.
Southampton Arts is a non-profit organization run by a governance Board of Directors, committed to a continuance of Bert's vision of the arts as a core indicator of the vibrancy of the beautiful town of Southampton, the wider Town of Saugeen Shores, Bruce County and beyond.