Alton Mill Arts Centre offers free skating, prepares for Christmas season

November 13, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Warm as the weather may have been this week, winter is sure to come and people may be thinking even now of warm coats, skis and their skates. Jeremy and Jordan Grant, owners of the Alton Mill Arts Centre, are thinking about skating too.

Said Jeremy Grant to the Citizen in an interview this week, “All we’re trying to do is create a skating rink for people to enjoy the outdoors. There’s no fee, no charges. It’s simply providing a place for people to enjoy skating and it is on the pond.”

The pond in question is the Mill Pond at the back of the heritage building, geese nests in the summer; pleasure skating in winter.

“What ‘s involved,” began Mr. Grant, in an appeal to the community that is invited to use the Pond, “is, basically, a team of people to schedule an outline to shovel snow off the ice when it snows. The Pond needs a small crew of people to take turn-abouts to do the clearing.

“On our end,” he promised, “we would keep an eye on the weather and the safety of the ice. With the warmer winters, that is the issue that comes up. The initial shovelling we would do to establish the perimeters of the rink. There are still rules over-ruling the rink.”

Ever since there were those rudimentary efforts to build footwear that would make slipping on the ice graceful and much more, there has been a tradition of [nearly] unspoken agreement amongst the community that uses the ice, to join in the task of keeping it clear of snow,.

“It’s the normal outdoor etiquette,” Mr. Grant remarked: “If you use it, you shovel it – like an old fashion community. We would provide shovels, but if you have your favourite shovel you can bring it. I know I have mine,” he freely admitted.

“That’s really all there is to it. It’s a no fee for people come to enjoy. It’s a beautiful thing to skate in the winter, especially now,” he made the point, “people are so restricted; especially for mental health, to spend the day out in the sun, whether it’s skating, hiking and walking on the trails on the property.

“I don’t think there’s enough snow for snowshoeing but the trails are open to the public all the time. Even during Covid, we kept our property [outdoors] open because we feel that people need a place to go outside.”

He added, naturally, “So, of course, if people do come to enjoy the place, if the Mill is open. Which it is – Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., they can come in and the café is still self -serve. There’s hot chocolate, coffee, very basic snacks, prepackaged snacks – nothing extravagant. At one point recently, we had to take the seats away but I think we can put them back. And people can visit the artists.” 

Christmas season is coming and the Alton Mill Arts Centre is looking forward to welcoming people looking to shop in a place “that is real”, as Jeremy Grant puts it.

He told us, “The thrust of the upcoming Christmas season is we’ve decided to have activities. Instead of an Open Night with the season to follow, this year we’’re having a Christmas Open Season and that will include photos with the Grinch. This year, it won’t work for peope to just show up for photos; people will have to make an appointment.”

The dates and times for photos with the Grinch are on the website but for convenience: they are November 21 and 22; December 5 and December 12 and 13, all from 10:00 a.m. To 5:00 p.m. 

People need to book a time for Grinch photos but not to visit the Mill’s shops and artists. 

Rather pleased with the new ideas for Christmas at the Alton Mill this year: “I can almost see it in my mind,” he said, “an afternoon of a sunny, picturesquely snowy day, people having a wonderful time walking on the trails, skating on the ponds, coming in for a warm drink and then, suddenly seeing how lovely it is too, inside the Mill. Then, visiting the artists on both floors and finding wonderful gifts that are different and hand crafted but still affordable.”

He went on to say, “This Christmas Open Season starts on the weekend of November 21 and 22, and goes all the way to Christmas. We’re open and encourage people to buy local, made by the people there or at Mill – crafters or artisans– to support the local market makes sense. There’s a huge artistic hub at the Mill and their work is very accessible for people to be able to afford; very reasonable real arts and crafts, much of it by the artists who have their studios at the Mill. 

“Gallery Gemma is a studio and store in the Mill,” he said. “It features fine jewellery: gold, sterling silver, precious and semi-precious stones; watches – wonderful. Anne-Marie Warburton is a gold-and-silver smith. She makes many of the pieces she sells.

“And the Rare Threads [fabric art],” continued Mr. Grant. “It’s chock a-block, it’s full of stuff. Going through, it’s a really nice experience; it’s authentic.” 

There are, likewise, two galleries: Headwaters Art Gallery and Noodle Gallery. 

“Upstairs are the studio artists, not just on the main floor,” emphasized Mr. Grant. “Some of them have been there many years. Margi Taylor and C. J. Sheldon; the hive where Karen Brown does workshops of encaustic painting as well as her own paintings; Mark Grice has his gallery upstairs and a workshop downstairs.

“Several others that people can come in and meet the artist. There’s also yoga, well, she uses it as a multi-purpose space – that’s Alex Leiker-Moser.

“A group of artists share a space and they’ve been there a long time.”

“Headwaters,” he mentioned, “have a tremendous exhibition, Artful Giving –works of art and artifacts that people can love and don’t need to spend a fortune.

“What we’re always hoping is that people will discover something wonderful in their own back yard, with free parking. That they’ll come and just relax in this beautiful environment and find something that is real and better than going to a mall.” 

He wanted to say: “For those people that have never been to the Alton Mill, it’s a place for people who appreciate quality and beautiful things. It’s like going to One of a Kind in Toronto, on a smaller scale.”

To book an appointment to have a photo with the Grinch, please go Otherwise, there lots more to learn at

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