We acknowledge the traditional territory of the Anishinaabek, which include the
The MacLaren Art Centre is the regional public art gallery serving the residents of Barrie, the County of Simcoe and the surrounding area. The Gallery has a permanent collection of contemporary Canadian art held in trust for the public and presents a year-round programme of world-class exhibitions,
The MacLaren is housed in an award-winning building in downtown Barrie. This architectural landmark combines a renovated Carnegie library with a contemporary addition designed by Siamak Hariri of Hariri Pontarini Architects. The complex includes multiple galleries, an education centre, a sculpture courtyard, café, gift shop and framing department. As a cornerstone of culture for Barrie, the MacLaren is a visual arts centre that adds to the social, intellectual, creative and economic fabric of this community; it is a central meeting place, a destination for visitors from across the province, and a catalyst for downtown revitalization contributing to the success and vitality of this city.
The MacLaren is committed to building a vibrant, healthy and creative community. Exhibitions, workshops, special events and community activities nurture artistic talent, inspire creativity and stimulate intellectual curiosity. Our award-winning education department offers art appreciation and hands-on programmes for all ages, interests and abilities including lectures, panels, artist talks, publications and gallery tours; art classes and camps; after-school youth workshops; artist-led programmes in the schools; and Sunday art-making activities for families.
The MacLaren is a not-for-profit charitable organization governed by a volunteer board of community leaders and maintained by ten full-time staff plus part-time/contract staff and artist instructors and over 200 active volunteers. The Gallery receives annual culture grants from the City of Barrie, the Ontario Art Council and the Canada Council for the Arts. The balance comes through earned revenues, corporate sponsorships, proceeds from fundraising events and the generous support of individuals, service clubs and local businesses.
The MacLaren Art Centre is a member of the Ontario Association of Art Galleries (OAAG), the Ontario Museum Association (OMA), the Canadian Museums Association (CMA) and the Canadian Art Museum Directors Organization (CAMDO). The MacLaren subscribes to a code of professional standards, ethics and legal requirements as set forth by these organizations and adheres to guidelines set by the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) to ensure the highest level of care for artwork on its premises and in its holdings.
The MacLaren offers a warm, welcoming environment. The Gallery is open to the public seven days week, excluding statutory holidays. Admission is by voluntary donation. The building is wheelchair accessible. Adjacent parking is available. Our facility also accommodates meetings, information sessions, corporate receptions and social events, such as weddings, memorial services and birthday parties. These activities—as well as our street-side café, our gift shop and our framing services—regularly welcome new visitors.
The City of Barrie owns the building in which the MacLaren Art Centre operates. The building is defined by the elegant juxtaposition of a renovated 1917 Carnegie Public Library and a dynamic contemporary space for the presentation and animation of the visual arts. Openness, accessibility and transparency are key design features. Built to meet professional museum standards, this 24,000 square foot facility includes: the Janice Laking Gallery (environmentally-controlled exhibition space): 1400 square feet; Gallery 3 (environmentally-controlled exhibition space): 1120 square feet; The Carnegie Room (multi-purpose/event space): 2380 square feet; Molson Community Gallery (collection, education and community exhibitions): 240 square feet; Prints and Drawings Room (environmentally-controlled collection space): 600 square feet; Joan Lehman Gallery (environmentally-controlled visible collection storage): 580 square feet; Rotary Education Centre (workshops, lectures, school tours): 1500 square feet; Massie Family Sculpture Courtyard (exterior exhibition space, controlled access): 1000 square feet; and the Gallery Café, Gallery Shop, Framing Department, offices and meeting rooms. The building capacity is 350.
The curatorial and collection mandates bring attention to emerging, mid-career and senior members of the regional
Programming is not just confined to the MacLaren. Through public art
Public programmes are developed to enhance the understanding of exhibitions. They are designed to inform and enlighten audiences, while challenging preconceived notions of art, allowing viewers to broaden their own definitions. Artist talks, lectures, panel discussions, publications, film screenings, interpretive panels, guided tours and hands-on activities nurture visitor appreciation and create various entryways into the artwork on view. MacLaren programming not only emphasizes artistic excellence,
The MacLaren is committed to advancing the knowledge and enjoyment of contemporary visual art using a variety of publication formats, which range from interpretive brochures for general audiences to comprehensive catalogues for more specialized audiences. Our goal is to have a publication for every exhibition we present, providing artists and audiences with a considered perspective of the artwork on view. We often work in partnership with other public galleries, sharing resources to produce more substantial publications with contributions from a variety of curators, arts writers and academics. Multiple essays in catalogues offer audiences different approaches to the interpretation of a given body of work. Publications are essential for communication with our audiences. By elucidating concerns raised in each exhibition, they create a more meaningful exchange and enrich
The pursuit of quality educational programming is the primary function of our Education Department, which serves both traditional and non-traditional audiences. Programmes are developed to broaden our audience base, to make the arts accessible to a diverse population and to meet the needs of specific community members: children, youth, adults, seniors, families, students, teachers, artists, tourists and the casual visitor, as well as specialized audiences such as members of the Francophone community, the Aboriginal community and culturally diverse audiences. With these audiences in mind, the Education Department develops a wide range of interpretive and hands-on activities that provide an enriched environment for learning. These programmes are shaped in consultation with our partners the City of Barrie, social service agencies, service clubs, Georgian College, Simcoe County District School Board, and the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School
The Gallery was incorporated in 1986 as the Barrie Gallery Project, a not-for-profit, charitable organization, and opened a storefront gallery in 1988 at 17c Mulcaster. In 1989, local businessman Maurice MacLaren left his collection and residence at 147 Toronto Street to the City of Barrie and the Barrie Gallery Project, giving the Gallery a permanent home. In honour of his bequest, the Gallery was named the MacLaren Art Centre in 1990.
During the 1990s, under director William Moore, the MacLaren gained recognition for its innovative approach to programming. In 1997, the MacLaren attracted 100,000 visitors
The MacLaren moved to a new, state-of-the-art facility in 2001. The building, designed by Siamak Hariri of Hariri Pontarini
In the summer of 2007, Carolyn Bell Farrell joined the MacLaren as Executive Director. Since then the Gallery has focused on building programmes and community partnerships, and strengthening operations and funding support for the Gallery. Support from members, benefactors, media partners and business sponsors continues to increase. The MacLaren now has over 200 active volunteers, the VanGo programme reaches over 6,000 regional schoolchildren each year, and annual attendance for programmes at the Gallery, in the schools and in the community exceeds 50,000.
In 2009, the MacLaren Art Centre launched its new communications campaign, which honours Maurice MacLaren, the Gallery’s namesake. The George Partnership International, a Toronto-based design and communications agency with offices in London and Dubai, worked with the MacLaren staff and its Communications Committee, chaired by Jennifer O’Neill, to create a new brand identity authentic to the Gallery. Gerald George, Creative Director and CEO, helped develop the Gallery’s brand identity and messaging. The positioning statement, STARTTHINKINGART, is a playful and provocative call to action while the bold graphic treatment represents a contemporary interpretation of a traditional MacLaren plaid that opens up to a wide spectrum of vibrant colours, geometric shapes and diverse patterns.
Measures of Success
The MacLaren measures its success and impact in many ways. In 2017, we engaged 53,275 people, including 20,575 young people. We hosted 53,248 website sessions. Our social media numbers included 3,670 followers on Twitter, 1,965 ‘likes’ on Facebook and 1,962 followers on Instagram. We acquired 17 artworks. We presented 31 exhibitions (including 2 touring show, 4 virtual shows and 11 community shows) and 655 arts education activities led by 29 artists. We had 307 VanGo bookings at 22 schools with 7,294 students; we ran 14 camps and 48 art classes; we led 64 free group tours
This level of activity and outreach is only possible with the support of local businesses, community organizations, individual donors and volunteers. In 2017, our 226 active volunteers donated 4,009 hours with support from 543 members and 178 businesses. We are deeply grateful for their generosity and commitment.