The Clayton area is known as the cultural center of the 1000 Islands, boasting three museums, artist galleries, a waterfront concert series every summer, and a year-round theater in the village’s turn-of-the-century opera house.
The natural beauty of the St. Lawrence River has inspired artists for centuries, so its no wonder that Clayton is home to a number of galleries. Whether your taste runs to watercolor paintings or period photographs, you’re certain to find something you’ll love.
The Antique Boat Museum, “America’s freshwater boating museum…the finest collection of antique boats in the world,” according to Joseph Gribbins of Nautical Quarterly Magazine. This Mary Street Museum houses the largest collection of freshwater antique boats and engines in the nation. Visitors can stroll amidst the Museum’s priceless collection of over 200 boats. If you have a little more time, why not enjoy a speedboat ride and enjoy a first hand look in yesteryear’s fast lane, or take up the oars yourself in a wooden skiff and explore the shoreline of Clayton. The Antique Boat Museum hosts a number of activities throughout the summer, including the oldest antique boat show and auction in the country that draws exhibitors and visitors from around the world. The museum also offers boat building classes for adults and entertaining educational programs for children. Before you leave make sure you check out the exciting new gift shop “River Memories” and pick up a keepsake for your own river memories.
The Thousand Islands Arts Center, Home of the Handweaving Museum, is located in a historic village building on John Street, bringing the visual arts alive in the 1000 Islands through art instruction and exhibits. The Arts Center also offers fun and exciting classes for all ages throughout the year. Learn to draw, paint, build rustic furniture, or work with clay during one of their dozens of art and craft classes. Tour their gallery of ever changing exhibits such as “Along The River’s Edge” that showcases the work of area artists or pieces from the museum’s permanent collection of hand-woven textiles and rare spinning and weaving tools. The TI Arts Center hosts special events throughout the year including the Antique Show & Sale, and Annual Craft Show.
Just around the corner on James Street is the Thousand Islands Museum. The TI Museum is famous for decoys, muskies and the rich heritage of river life. The Museum gallery offers a history of life along the St. Lawrence River from yesteryear and a new archival library is open to the public to research river heritage. You can also learn more about Clayton’s colorful past at the popular “History at Noon” programs. Make sure to check out the St. Lawrence Tartan, the museum’s trademark. The greens represent the cedars along the shore, the blues are the shades of the St. Lawrence River, and the red signifies the sunset over the islands. Also in the gift shop you will find a broad selection of gifts and souvenirs. Annually the Museum hosts the Decoy & Wildlife Art Show & Auction. The show includes hunting decoy contests as well as an auction. Works of art by well-known artists from all of the United States and Canada are displayed for purchase.
The Clayton Opera House located on Riverside Drive offers performances year-round. Built in 1903 as the Town of Clayton’s performance and community center, the Opera House underwent a $3.2 million renovation in 2007. Through this project, much of the building’s infrastructure was updated to meet modern codes for accessibility and safe usage, however the historic integrity of the facility was preserved. The stately hall at the heart of downtown Clayton is once again an important center of activity for residents and visitors. Nationally and internationally recognized artists grace the stage of the Clayton Opera House throughout the year providing a wide variety of entertainment from bluegrass to classical concerts, comedy and magic shows, country line dance lessons to formal balls. The full schedule of events at the Clayton Opera House offers programs to peak the interest of arts lovers of all ages! Those interested in learning more about the architecture and history of the venue are welcome to drop in for a tour
Summer sunsets provide a breathtaking backdrop for Clayton’s Waterfront concerts at Frink Park on Riverside Drive any Thursday night in summer. Jazz, brass ensembles, military, country, and contemporary music are features at these popular evening events. There may be a tall ship or navy vessel docked right there as ships travel to Clayton throughout the summer.