Cultural life in the Lower St. Lawrence is especially rich and diversified; the Portail culturel du Bas-Saint-Laurent (Cultural Portal for the Lower St. Lawrence), the regional Internet showcase of the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications, the Toile du Bas-Saint-Laurent (Lower St. Lawrence Web), as well as the site for the Conseil de la Culture du Bas-Saint-Laurent all present its varying aspects.
An Innovative Region
Over the years, the Lower St. Lawrence region has witnessed the birth of many original initiatives, some of which remain unique even today:
- In 1956, Québec's first Book Fair was held in Rimouski;
- In 1978, the first regional network of event organizers, ROSEQ, was established;
- In 1982, the Carrousel international du film de Rimouski became the first film festival for young people in North America;
- In 1990, the Camp littéraire Félix, a literature training and development organization, was created, influencing all of Québec.
This innovative tradition has continued and recently other one-of-a-kind organizations and experiences have been created:
From the Highland to the Coast
Each of the region's eight RCMs have their own distinctive features not only as far as landscape, spatial organization and architecture go, but also in matters of art and culture. Many municipalities and RCMs have created cultural policies to promote these features and to support the development of arts and culture in their respective environments.
The Témiscouata region features a "maple economuseum", the Domaine Acer; in the Kamouraska region, Land Art is carving out a special place for itself in visual arts.
The Rivière-du-Loup RCM showcases two heritage jewels: the Manoir Fraser and the Île Verte circuit court. Les Basques is known for its international French storytelling festival, the Rendez-vous des Grandes Gueules.
The Rimouski-Neigette RCM is proud of its newcomers, including the Concerts aux Îles du Bic (chamber music), the Symposium de creation d'oeuvres d'art in situ (Symposium on the creation of works of art in situ) on Saint-Barnabé Island, and an opera theatre.
La Mitis boasts the Murmures, historic murals painted on Mont-Joli's main buildings, as well as the Grand Rassemblement by artist Marcel Gagnon. La Matapédia invites you to discover the Matamajaw Historical Site.
The Matane RCM is now blessed with the Joseph Rouleau cultural complex that houses a library and three places dedicated to visual arts, the Matane Art Gallery, Espace F and the collection of the Claude Picher Foundation.
A Dynamic Region
All facets of artistic and cultural activity are offered to visitors and inhabitants of the Lower St. Lawrence. All fields of artistic and cultural activity can be found in the region, along with training, creation, production and exhibition activities. There are more than 2,000 people in the Lower St. Lawrence who work in the arts and culture industry.
Together, some 50 organizations make up the performing arts network. Certain organizations work in the fields of musical and dance training, and musical and theatrical productions, whereas other organizations stage shows. The Théâtre les gens d'en bas offers an annual program and manages a production centre. The summer and autumn seasons are filled with events, including the Festival en fleurs by the Orchestre symphonique de l’Estuaire and the Festival international de jazz de Rimouski.
Creation and production are alive and well in the field of visual arts. In addition to individual artists, there are also two artists centres, three museums and a dozen private art galleries that exhibit visual arts.
As far as crafts are concerned, craftspeople have gathered together under the umbrella of the Corporation métiers d'art Bas-Saint-Laurent. About twenty of them open their workshops to the public or have a boutique. Not only do they work with glass, leather, wood, fabric, precious metals and ceramics, they also use materials such as fish bones, seaweed… La Mitis is home to a "weaving economuseum", and Témiscouata has a "cabinet making economuseum".
The media arts, film and video industries are very active in the fields of creation, production and distribution. The Paraloeil artists center produces and shows art films and videos, documentaries and other avant-garde films. Cinéma Quatre, part of the Cinéma Parallèle network, shows recent films and repertoire films. The Carrousel international du film de Rimouski organizes an 8-day event each fall, as well as several activities during the rest of the year, including a winter and spring tour of several towns in the region and in eastern Québec. A dozen private production companies, including several whose productions are of exceptional quality, like Productions Vic Pelletier, round out this category.
Many writers are either natives or inhabitants of the Lower St. Lawrence, and some draw their inspiration from its roots. Reading and literature promotional activities are offered by organizations, five independent public libraries, and the Centre regional de services aux bibliothèques publiques du Bas-Saint-Laurent with its 93 affiliated libraries. Les Éditions Trois-Pistoles and the literary review “Tangence” also add to this sector’s vitality.
Close to thirty museum-related institutions pursue various missions and explore different themes. Worthy of mention is ASTER, the Lower St. Lawrence's scientific station in Saint-Louis du Ha! Ha!, the Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent in Rivière-du-Loup, and the Musée régional de Rimouski that focuses on both art and history. As for historic sites Fort Ingall in Cabano, the, Lamontagne House, Chapais House the Palais de Justice de Kamouraska (court house), the Musée de la mer de Pointe-au-Père, and the Parc de l'Aventure Basque en Amérique, located in Trois-Pistoles, are all open to the public during the summer season.
The region has been blessed with a rich legacy in tangible and intangible heritage showcased by about fifty organizations. These riches refer to landscapes, archaeological and architectural sites, as well as property designated or recognized as cultural property by the municipalities; they are also found in traditions and expertise, and the preservation of archives.
To name but a few of these legacies, there are the Reford Gardens, summer cottages that date back to the beginning of vacationing in Notre-Dame-du-Portage, Cacouna and Métis-sur-Mer, Québec's first designated submerged property (the Empress of Ireland shipwreck), the Maison de la Prune in Saint-André (Kamouraska), and the Centre d'archives de la Côte-du-Sud in La Pocatière.