BY SHARON SAMUEL
From a bicycle shed to a purpose-built accommodation in the Centre in the Square, the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery has come a long way. This year it is celebrating its 60th anniversary.
In the 1920s, four women – Ida E. (McMahon) Cram, Geneva Jackson, Florence K. Sims and Sarah Williams – came up with an idea to start an art gallery to promote art pieces in the community. Their vision was fulfilled in 1956. The K-W Art Gallery first started in a bicycle shed beside K-W Collegiate on King Street with an exhibition of artworks by Canadian artist Tom Thomson.
Jennifer Bullock, Assistant curator and registrar at the K-W Art Gallery, said from September 1956 to June 1957 there were 17 exhibitions. “The first exhibition was an exhibition of Tom Thomson’s works that was opened by A.Y. Jackson (and) that was 35 paintings.”
Jackson was a Canadian painter and one of the founding members of the Group of Seven.
“During the first year there was an exhibition of students art work in kindergarden through Grade 12,” said Nicole Neuseld, director of public programs “In fact, Mondays and Tuesdays the gallery was closed so that school kids could come through.”
Shirley Madill, executive director at the art gallery, began looking into the gallery’s history in 2015. She sent a press release to CBC asking for the community’s help.
In August 1956, the first board of directors was formed and Gerald E. Eastman, a lawyer at the firm Smith, Clement and Eastman, was elected president. There were 16 members on the board. Volunteers and the founders, themselves, helped paint and clean the first gallery, which was a bicycle shed.
In 1968, the gallery moved to 43 Benton St., and there were 400 works in permanent collection. In 1980 it moved again, this time to 101 Queen St., Kitchener, and held 4,000 works in the permanent collection.
“We raise 55 per cent from the private sector, 29 per cent from municipal funding from the City of Kitchener and Waterloo,” said Madill. “We also get eight per cent from the Canada Council Arts Federation organization and 11 per cent from Ontario’s Arts Council.”
The art gallery also showcases the work of international artists in addition to Canadian artists.
The gallery is open to the public from Monday to Saturday between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. For more information, visit www.kwag.ca.