We acknowledge the traditional territory of the Anishinaabek, which include the Odawa, Ojibwe and Pottawatomi Nations, collectively known as the Three Fires Confederacy. The local bands consist of the Chippewa Tri-Council, who are made up of Beausoleil First Nation, Georgina Island First Nation and Rama First Nation. We would also like to acknowledge the Wendat Nation (Huron) who occupied these lands prior to the middle of the 17th century.
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, education activities and special events.
The MacLaren is housed in an award-winning building in downtown Barrie. This architectural landmark combines a renovated 1917 Carnegie library with a contemporary addition designed by Siamak Hariri of Hariri Pontarini Architects. The City of Barrie owns the building in which the MacLaren Art Centre operates. The complex includes multiple galleries, an education centre, a sculpture courtyard, café and gift shop. Admission is by voluntary donation. The building is wheelchair accessible. Adjacent parking is available.
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 the communities across Barrie and the region. 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 area. The MacLaren is committed to building vibrant, healthy and creative communities across Simcoe County.
The MacLaren is a registered charity governed by a volunteer board of community leaders and maintained by thirteen full-time staff plus part-time/contract staff and artist instructors, and over 220 active volunteers. The Gallery receives annual culture grants from the City of Barrie, the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts. The balance comes through earned revenues, corporate sponsorships, proceeds from special events and the generous support of individuals, service clubs and local businesses.
The MacLaren Art Centre is a member of Galeries Ontario Galleries (GOG), the Ontario Museum Association (OMA), the Canadian Museums Association (CMA), the Indigenous Curatorial Collective/Collectif des commissaires autochtones (IC/CA), 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’s Permanent Collection comprises 4,347 works of art, most of which are designated as Cultural Property through the Department of Canadian Heritage and held in trust for the public. The collection represents visual culture in Canada with an emphasis on contemporary art. As part of our Permanent Collection, we also house 23,116 vintage Soviet press photographs (Sovfoto Archive). Our Permanent Collection continues to evolve as a major asset for the immediate and larger community. The Collection mandate is: to represent the practice of significant regional artists in depth; to contextualize this work within the history of Canadian art practices through the acquisition of complementary works by other Canadian artists; to collect work by contemporary Indigenous artists, especially artists from our region; to collect documentary photography, particularly works by Canadian artists influenced by the history of documentary photography; and to collect works of art from our exhibition programme so that the Collection reflects our ongoing research activities. In shaping the artistic programme, the curators regularly present exhibitions using artwork from the Collection and develop exhibitions that support, reflect and animate the Permanent Collection, making it an accessible and relevant resource for the public. The Joan Lehman Gallery offers a dedicated exhibition space for the Permanent Collection. Artworks from our Collection are accessible for loan to other public art galleries.
The Gallery was incorporated in 1986 as the Barrie Gallery Project, a not-for-profit, charitable organization. It 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, the MacLaren gained wide-spread recognition for its innovative approach to programming. In 1997, the Gallery attracted 100,000 visitors for Joe Fafard’s Field Project. The design by this Saskatchewan artist was planted with crops in a 50-acre site to produce the image of a horse, assisted by local farmers and 200 volunteers. Responding to the new Ontario public school curriculum, “VanGo” was introduced in 1997, employing regional artists to deliver subsidized in-class studio programmes across Simcoe County. In 1997, 1998 and 1999 the MacLaren was awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for its exceptional private sector and community support. Ron Baird’s outdoor public sculpture Spirit Catcher (1986) was the first work accessioned into the MacLaren’s Collection; located at Barrie’s waterfront on the shores of Kempenfelt Bay, it has become an icon in the landscape and a symbol for Barrie. In 2003, 2005 and 2007, the MacLaren mounted its ambitious Shorelines series featuring public sculptures by national and international artists installed along the shore of Lake Simcoe and Barrie’s downtown.
The MacLaren moved to a new, state-of-the-art facility in 2001. The building, designed by Siamak Hariri of Hariri Pontarini Architects, garnered significant critical acclaim, including the 2003 Ontario Architects Association Award of Excellence for Best Building (under $10 million) and the National Post Design Exchange Award of Merit.