A short history of TAG

In the beginning

The art gallery at the Haileybury LibraryThe art gallery at the Haileybury LibraryIn the mid-1970’s members of the Haileybury Library Board saw the need for an art gallery. Two members, Bette Campbell and Eleanor Huff, had been taking art classes with the artist Caroline MacArthur, and together they decided to put on an exhibition of art at the library. This was work of artists from the local art clubs and MacArthur’s art classes. The exhibition was well received but the display in the library was not ideal as work was placed on shelves or wherever a space could be found. There was clearly a need for a dedicated space for artwork.

At one end of the building where the library was housed was an apartment rented out by the town. Once the town agreed that it could be renovated into an art gallery, the next hurdle was to organize and raise the necessary funds.

As a result, the Library Board formed an art gallery committee. Bette Campbell became the chair of this committee while Eleanor Huff became the new chair of the library. Jack Mason became the treasurer of the new art gallery committee.

The Art Gallery was run by this committee as part of the library for several years. The first action was to raise money for the renovation of the apartment space. Jack Mason made the first donation and major funds came from a grant by Wintario.

Critchley and Delaine of North Bay provided initial drawings. John Clark Building carried on with engineering drawings.

The Art Gallery Committee contacted the Art Gallery of Ontario who sent up two people to advise on the fitting of the gallery. They were exceptionally helpful in providing practical and economical ways of making the gallery work. For instance they were the ones to suggest using chains for hanging the artwork instead of the more costly reinforced walls of more wealthy galleries. This technique was used until the new gallery was opened.

Next they needed shows. Again the Art Gallery of Ontario came to their aid by agreeing to send up a series of exhibitions as part of their outreach programme – for no charge. This meant important shows and artists’ work could be seen in the region that otherwise would have been impossible. In addition local artists stepped up and offered exhibitions.

Five years after the initial idea was discussed, the Temiskaming Art Gallery was opened – as part of the Haileybury Library. The first exhibition was the annual juried show of the Northern Ontario Art Association, Colour Show. To bring people into the new gallery there was an ambitious schedule of a new show every two or three weeks. Exhibitions of work by Lionel Venne, Caroline MacArthur, Sawford-Dye, Huff and Campbell soon followed, interspersed by travelling shows from the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Ontario Crafts Council. The tradition of promoting and displaying local art continues to today and is a core aim of the gallery. Each year one exhibition slot was reserved for the Temiskaming Palette and Brush Club, and many other local artists have had collective and solo exhibitions.

A magnet for artists

The gallery has attracted many important artists from elsewhere. Artists have come to exhibit their work and take part in gallery programming; they often end up becoming very attached to the gallery and attracted to the region. As a result many have returned again and again, and produced work inspired by Temiskaming. They have also helped to bring the gallery to the attention of a wider art world.

The art gallery and the flourishing art scene in Temiskaming did not spring out of nowhere. Ever since artists like A Y Jackson, Franklin Carmichael, Yvonne McKague Housser, George Pepper, David Milne, and Isabel McLaughlin were drawn to the powerful landscape and burgeoning raw mining towns such as Cobalt, the area has been an attraction for artists. Gus Weisman, David Carlin, Robert Carmichael and Linda Hankin are but a few of those who trekked north. Equally respected local artists, many whose works are in the permanent collection, have continued this rich tradition.

Earlier still, settlers to the region brought folk crafts which can be still be seen in local museums and traditions which are practised in homes and studios today. And long before them, Algonquin-speaking peoples who lived in and travelled throughout the region created art connected to their religious and cultural beliefs. Although little of this early visual art remains locally, petroglyphs and tools hint at what they produced and many fine Algonquin works are preserved in various national collections. But Algonquin peoples today in the region continue to develop their artistic traditions, both visual and non-visual, and there are many respected artists in these communities who have national and international reputations for their work.

A thriving art community

Immediately following on the heels of interest by Group of Seven artists and others in the early half of the 20th century, local artists began organizing art clubs and a regional art organization was formed: the Northern Ontario Art Association. Among early jurors for its annual exhibitions were A.Y. Jackson and A.J. Casson In 1958 the first artists’ colony took place in Cobalt during a week in July and it has been attracting artists from the region and elsewhere ever since. The thriving local Temiskaming Palette and Brush Club acts each year as host.

The arts community continues to evolve with new studios opening and new initiatives such as local studio tours. Commercial art galleries such as Spirit of the Arts and Armstrong on Whitewood in New Liskeard, and Laura's Art Shoppe in Cobalt, also promote local artists.

TAG at the heart

The Temiskaming Art Gallery both benefits and contributes to this thriving art scene. The gallery offers a yearly schedule of eight exhibitions a year. Notable local artists in solo and group shows are well-represented, along with hosting an annual juried show of the Northern Ontario Arts Association. Important travelling shows at TAG have included Art Gallery of Ontario exhibitions by artists such as: Lupe Rodriguez, Robert Holden, Christopher Broadhurst, Simon Harwood, Henry Moore (Shelter Sketchbook portfolio), works by Man Ray, Lichenstein, Christo, Moira Clark; other TAG shows included Walter Curtin photography, Kayo O’Young ceramics, Shang Dong (China), group show of artists north of Superior, Edward Curtis Photographs, and Ukiyo-E. In addition, TAG frequently has exhibitions of local youth and children. We also offer the community a variety of art programming and outreach opportunities. There are programmes for schools, seniors, public lectures and workshops. Each year children can attend TAG’s annual Junior Artists’ Colony art camp.

A new chapter

Temiskaming City HallTemiskaming City HallIn April 2008, the grand opening of the new premises for the Temiskaming Art Gallery took place in the recently built City Hall for Temiskaming Shores. This new gallery was the result of funding received through the Canadian Heritage, Cultural Spaces Canada Program and local fundraising efforts lead by the Chair, Walter Pape, and members of the Board of TAG. The space offers better space, environmental conditions, better storage of the permanent collection and offices, and greater facilities for lectures and receptions. The building is situated on the bank of Lake Temiskaming in a spectacular setting. Since opening in the new location, with a retrospective exhibition of Doug Donley’s work, nineteen have been shown including work by Fusion: the Clay and Glass Association and the Northern Ontario Art Association.