“I get to use my expertise, training and schooling. It’s very satisfying to share that after I retired and am no longer teaching. But that’s what docents do: teach.” (Jim Mroczkowski, Docent AGW/Ret. Professor, Nipissing University, 2012)
Throughout the course of its rich history, the Art Gallery of Windsor (AGW) has taken a leading role in art education, playing a vital role in the artistic and cultural life of residents in the Windsor region and beyond. The Windsor Art Association (WAA), the predecessor of the Art Gallery of Windsor, was formed expressly to educate the community about the arts, to promote an interest through regular art activities and to create a permanent collection available for the community.
This early educational programming was the foundation of programming today. It included art classes for children and adults that inspired imagination and self-expression in a positive and encouraging environment. Tours of the exhibition were enjoyed by thousands of school children who were brought in to view the paintings, and various community and arts organizations met at Willistead to discuss art topics. These programs were designed to advance visual literacy by fostering an understanding and appreciation of the aesthetics of visual arts.
Exhibitions, such as the annual Exhibition of Essex County Artists introduced audiences to the work of local artists. Touring exhibitions brought art from all over the world to Windsor, including The Art of Australia, Canadian Society of Painters in Water-Colour and Western Hemisphere Art.
In the ensuing years, curator-director Kenneth Saltmarche expanded educational programming, presenting stimulating and thought-provoking lectures by internationally known artists, curators, art critics and historians. The lectures created an awareness, excitement and understanding of the arts in the community.
Saltmarche also initiated a picture loan program, acquiring a collection of framed reproductions and small sculptures to encourage Windsor residents to rent or buy the art for their homes or offices. Interest in the newly-developed picture loan program was evident in the constant demand of the services, and was seen “as the most fruitful educational project ever undertaken by the Windsor Art Association and the Library Board” (WPL Annual Report, 1950).
Saltmarche also educated Windsor residents about the arts and the activities of the gallery in the local paper. For 25 years, he wrote art criticism on shows that were at the Willistead Art Gallery and promoted the art gallery as a source of education, recreation and inspiration. Saltmarche encouraged people to get to know about art, as well as to support the living artist by owning a personal collection for their own appreciation. The gallery had excellent cooperation with the Superintendent of Education and classes came for tours weekly.
The AGW’s educational programming has continued to grow to include art discovery workshops, studio classes, gallery tours, lectures, panel discussions and teacher workshops. A current listing of the AGW’s events can be found on their website at www.agw.ca.
Over the last few years, the AGW has toured exhibitions from the permanent collection throughout Ontario and Canada, as well as to locations in the U.S., with art work being loaned to the Textile Museum of Canada, the Museum London, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, the Nickle Arts Museum, University of Calgary and the Canadian Embassy, Tokyo, Japan, among others.
Click on the image below to view the Art Gallery of Windsor’s Studio in 360 degree image. Click and drag your mouse on the image to view the Studio.
The AGW will continue playing a dynamic role in the cultural community of Windsor. According to director Catharine Mastin, “Our vision going forward is to focus the Gallery on a dynamic exhibition program and develop new and renewed educational and publishing initiatives.” (AGW News Release, 2012).