“What would this community be without an art gallery, what would we be without any forms of art whether it be visual, whether it be the symphony, whether it be the library, without these cultural things, that is the very fabric that keeps us together.” (Sean White, President, Art Gallery of Windsor, 2012.)
Caring for and maintaining a community-owned art collection of over 4,000 pieces of artwork takes a combination of loyal supporters, eager volunteers and a committed staff and board of directors to ensure that the AGW remains a viable organization. Here, we introduce you to the people who make the gallery a successful, lively meeting place for art and people.
Directors of the Art Gallery of Windsor
The director of the Art Gallery of Windsor works with the board to lead the institution, offering vision, support and management to the gallery staff. The director is responsible for: the management of all art gallery affairs including the exhibition and educational programs, collections, finances and human resources and generating educational programs, fundraising and marketing initiatives. For individual information about the Directors of the AGW, Read more…
Volunteers and Special Event Fundraising
Volunteers at the Art Gallery of Windsor have always been a large part of the foundation of the organization, playing a key role in creating and sustaining the gallery.
Art exhibitions at the newly formed Willistead Art Gallery of Windsor were sponsored by community social and volunteer clubs such as the Art Association and the Friends of the Windsor Public Library. With the organization of the volunteer service of the Women’s Committee in 1953, many Windsorites were introduced to the art gallery for the first time. Early campaigns to bring people into the gallery achieved record success, attracting thousands to Willistead and increasing membership of the Art Association. The Committees’ fundraising campaigns successfully helped to purchase art for the permanent collection, obtain supplies and equipment needed for social activities and enabled the Art Association to meet its goals of promoting an interest in art in the area.
In 1959, the Women’s Committee’s special projects included the 9th Annual Sale of Canadian Art. The sale, which was held for ten days in December, familiarized area residents with the work being done by contemporary Canadian artists. Also that year, the first Tour of Windsor Houses was organized with six homes in Windsor participating. These activities raised funds and also brought an increased awareness of the Art Association and the gallery in the community.
Molly Briggs, current chair of the AGW Volunteer Committee (2012), has been a volunteer at the gallery since 1966. “Our major successes have been the three cookbooks that we produced, all of which were Canadian best sellers, our Kitchen and Garden Tour which ran for 19 years and made a substantial amount of money and many times the money would be raised to buy important works for the art gallery’s permanent collection,” said Briggs.
Volunteers contribute to the AGW in the same way today, giving generously of their time and talents to assist in presenting exhibitions, events and educational programs. They assist staff with mailings, and exhibit opening and hostess duties, tend the information desk and in the resource centre, cataloguing, shelving, filing, covering books and assisting the public. Volunteers supported the gift shop at the Art Gallery and Art Rental and Sales until 2011 when those enterprises were discontinued. Often supporting staff through difficult times while continuing to perform at a level and quality that belied the lack of resources available, volunteers plan and develop fundraising events or develop and implement a recruitment program for new members and retaining members.
Another role the volunteers at the AGW serve is as a docent. Docents guide visitors through the art gallery and assist with their understanding and appreciation of the exhibitions and art work – a crucial contribution and benefit to visitors and the AGW.
The AGW Volunteer Committee also has organized a number of events to involve the community such as tours to other art museums and the popular Art History Film Series. Through a variety of fundraising events the Volunteer Committee donates to and supports successful initiatives during the year. Of special note are a number of highly successful, profile-raising events this year including the Jubilee Tea For Two or More and the Bridge & Fashion Show Luncheon, which provided a fashion show, silent auction and other draws and a luncheon for attendees, with all proceeds from this event benefiting the Art Gallery of Windsor.
New volunteers are always welcome to provide support in a range of activities and services which contribute to the success of the gallery and its programs. In addition to the Volunteer Committee, a dedicated group of fundraisers led by Pam Rodzik has staged “Artrageous”, a large ticketed evening event held on a biennial basis for the past decade. This project has provided critical resources to the AGW during its first decade of operations at 401 Riverside Drive West.
The support that the AGW receives from individuals, public and private donors, foundations, governments and corporations is an indication of the importance the Windsor community recognizes in the arts. The AGW depends on the generosity of donors who support and advocate for the Gallery. When you visit the Art Gallery of Windsor, many of the galleries are named after donors who have supported the gallery’s Named Space program.
Most art work in the AGW permanent collection has been generously donated by artists, private collectors and other art galleries. A major achievement for the AGW was the acquisition by gift from the Detroit Institute of Arts of the painting, “A Side Street” by Lawren Harris.
Donors have also established charitable bequests to the gallery to ensure the future of the gallery’s permanent collection. One of the earliest bequests was established by the family of Dorothy Smith in 1950 for the purchase of paintings by Canadian artists. The AGW quickly acquired “Grain Elevators” by E.S. Faiers and “Setting Out the Blocks” by Edward A. Hodgkinson using this fund.
The Art Gallery of Windsor Foundation was incorporated in 1979 to grow, receive, maintain and invest funds for the gallery to acquire and conserve the permanent collection. The foundation’s income is obtained from general gifts and donations, planned giving, bequests, investments and grants. In 1993, the AGW Board leased the gallery’s building to the Ontario Casino Corporation for use as a temporary casino. The bulk of the rental income was committed to the Foundation’s endowment fund, which supports the operation of the AGW. Since 1996, it has spent over $8 million from the income earned on the endowment directly on gallery operations. Annual allotments from the foundation to the gallery sustain the AGW and create the significant cultural institution that it is today.
The Visual Artist
Artists examine, explore and interpret their experiences and the world around them, introducing different perspectives and new ways of understanding ourselves and others through their art. The visual artists represented at the AGW show the depth of the rich history of our country and this region. Visual artists showing at the AGW have created a wide range of art forms that include but are not limited to sculpture, painting, drawing, printmaking, photography and video.
The AGW’s support of local artists began with founding director Kenneth Saltmarche, who was committed to displaying work of artists from the area. Art in the Park, an annual art display and sale held at Willistead, was initially started to provide an opportunity for artists in Windsor and the surrounding region to exhibit and sell their work.
The AGW also supports local artists through exhibitions and by supporting the initiatives of local artists every year. For example, at the scheduled reopening of the Art Gallery of Windsor after asbestos removal in 1987, the works of fourteen Windsor artists were exhibited. More recently, each year for the past several years, local artists have participated in numerous group and solo shows. The art gallery’s exhibitions archive, available online at http://www.agw.ca recounts local participation in gallery exhibitions since 1998. In 2000, the AGW mounted an exhibition of fourteen works in Washington, D.C., at the Organization of American States, with three works from Windsor artists. Over the years, the AGW has continued to support local artists by organizing such projects as the Windsor Biennial, a major exhibition that showcases contemporary art from Windsor and surrounding communities. Drawing hundreds of submissions, the juried exhibition provides an opportunity for artists, curators and the community to recognize this area’s talent in contemporary art. In 2004, the Biennial expanded to include artists from across the border and, in 2011, showcased artists within a hundred mile radius.
Local artists are also involved in educational programming at the AGW. They share their expertise and enthusiasm for art by participating in tours, talks, panel discussions and at Sundays in the Studio, workshops offered to families and children based on the current exhibitions. Take a virtual tour of the studio, here.
Art Gallery of Windsor Members
The AGW memberships support the programs and services offered at the AGW. The gallery welcomes new members and benefits include free admission to most programs and a subscription to the AGW Gallery Guide publication. Many AGW members also take part in the daily operation of the AGW as volunteers.