Message from Carolyn
The MacLaren Art Centre is the regional public art gallery serving the residents of Barrie, the County of Simcoe and the surrounding area, engaging over 58,000 people each year in activities at the Gallery, in the schools and in the community. The MacLaren presents a year-round programme of exhibitions, workshops and special events that nurture artistic talent, inspire creativity and stimulate intellectual curiosity. Each year we deliver over 700 arts education activities for audiences of all ages, interests and abilities.
We recently completed a strategic plan focusing on its collection of contemporary Canadian art held in trust for the public. Our top strategic objectives were to enhance the ways we conserve, store, manage, build, animate and document our collection. Now, as many of these goals have been met, we are moving forward with new strategic directions that will guide our operations and programme activities.
With generous support from the County of Simcoe’s Arts, Culture and Heritage Grant Program and the Ontario Arts Council’s Compass Program, the MacLaren was able to hire cultural consultant Micheline McKay to assist with our new strategic plan (2019 to 2023). McKay possesses tremendous expertise, with clients that include the City of Toronto, Ontario Arts Council, Canada Council and the Ontario Museum Association, where she led the task force to create a ten-year strategic plan for the Ontario museum sector.
In June 2018, McKay led board and staff, artists, service volunteers and community stakeholders through a series of facilitated sessions. Five strategic planning sessions took place on June 7, 8, 21 and 28 at the MacLaren with 36 community members including board, volunteers, artists and other community stakeholders. We also organized an online survey from June 7 to 17, emailed to our 2700 subscribers, with 171 respondents. McKay conducted one-on-one interviews with Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman, Karen Dubeau, Director of Creative Economy for the City of Barrie, local artist Sean George and MacLaren Youth Council Member Tara Friel.
During these community consultations, we reviewed our mission; our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges; the changing demographics of our community; our current and potential audiences; and ways to measure and evaluate our progress. Responses were very positive and indicated that the MacLaren is viewed as well managed, highly resourceful and responsive. Focus was largely placed on the need for enhanced accessibility, inclusivity and outreach, specifically: increasing physical and intellectual access to the Gallery, to our collection and to our artworks on view; developing a more focused curatorial direction embracing regional art and issues while exploring new ways to engage local artists; and building new partnerships to extend programming in the community. This new strategic plan, Enhanced Engagement, identifies three key directions: to enhance ways to share our stories; to enhance our curatorial focus; and to enhance our engagement with new and diverse communities. We look forward to developing these new initiatives, and to sharing our outcomes with our community.
As a public art gallery, we strive to bring people to art and art to people in ways that are engaging, enriching and enjoyable. Our hope is that this new strategic plan will help us to identify, prioritize and design contemporary visual arts experiences that are meaningful, representative and inclusive for new Canadians and culturally diverse audiences and that foster a sense of belonging. We are excited about what our future holds and deeply grateful to all those who helped to shape this vision. We are indebted to the Ontario Arts Council and the County of Simcoe for their generous support of this initiative.
Carolyn Bell Farrell