Perhaps the reason MacLaren Art Centre continues to increase its attendees on an annual basis is because there’s so much offered at the Centre.

Last year, attendance reached 53,504 people, including 20,000 children and youth, with programs at the gallery, schools and the community. It was an increase of 7,000 from the previous year.

“What’s really growing are our website visits and social media, and we’re putting more and more virtual shows on our website,” says MacLaren Art Centre’s Executive Director Carolyn Bell Farrell.

“I think MacLaren continues to be a cultural hub for residents and for tourists from across the province,” adds Bell Farrell. “We continue to build public engagement in as many ways as we can. We’re committed to educational and learning opportunities for all ages and interests.”

This year has been special for the Centre celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday in a variety of ways, recognizing the diverse narratives that comprise this period of the nation’s history.

In the spring, the Centre had an exhibit, Arthur Shilling: The Final Works, which featured portraits of the Rama artist in the final 10 years of his life. That was partnered with an exhibition called Call To Action #83 that had works by 16 regional indigenous and non-indigenous artists.

“All of this is kind of celebrating Canada’s history, but from a variety of perspectives,” Bell Farrell says.

The Centre received some special funding from the Barrie Community Foundation to put on a series of six free full-day youth workshops in the spring, led by indigenous artists and curators from across the province.

“It was a great way to talk about Canada’s history and the indigenous inhabitants of this land, issues of land claims, cultural history and heritage,” Bell Farrell says. “It gave (the youths) a much stronger sense of indigenous, cultural identity.”

There are currently five exhibitions running through to the third week of October that continue the Canadian theme:

  • Act Naturally is a survey exhibition of drawings produced over the past six years paired with a major outdoor sculpture by Toronto artist Jaime Angelopoulos.
  • Wavements is a collection of paintings by Order of Canada recipient Doris McCarthy, whose career spans the history of Canadian art in the 20th century and is known for her Canadian landscape paintings.
  • Re-Enact: explores how six Canadian artists – Sarah Ciurysek, Michael Farnan, Meryl McMaster, Emma Nishimura, Krista Belle Stewart and Elinor Whidden – commemorate and renegotiate moments of the past.
  • Summer Sketches brings together watercolours of the late Lucius O’Brien, who was born in Shanty Bay, and contemporary photographs by Barrie-based artist Garett Walker.
  • Collecting Canada: Selections from John Hartman’s Photography Collection presents historic photographs from the collection of senior regional artist John Hartman, who has assembled more than 500 vintage prints documenting the landscape of Canada in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Centre is conserving and installing sculptures on its grounds from its Permanent Collection by leading Ontario artists Sorel Etrog and Kosso Eloul, both of whom immigrated to Canada and became world renowned. Etrog’s Dream Chamber is a bronze cast of an interlocked head, its imagery and title suggesting the power to unlock our inner potential. Eloul’s Shlosha is comprised of three delicately balanced rectangular stainless steel forms representing truth, justice and peace in Jewish law. The revitalized sculpture garden is a special Canada 150 legacy project.

Also this year, the Centre is celebrating the centennial of its Carnegie library, which forms the heart of its award-winning building, and the 30th anniversary of the installation of the Spirit Catcher at Barrie’s waterfront. The MacLaren Art Centre includes a 1917 Carnegie Public Library, the first public library in Barrie. Scottish-born/American steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie helped build more than 2,500 public libraries.

The Centre is also continuing its annual Carnegie Days, which is a festival of arts and language, running from September 28 to October 1. Carnegie Days draws on the origin of the MacLaren Art Centre building, and there are special exhibitions, performances, readings and artists’ talks. It is partnered with other places in the City, including the Barrie Public Library, the Barrie Film Festival and Simcoe Contemporary Dancers.

Each year has a different theme. This year’s is Translation.

We’re looking at the translation of experience into expression as it shapes our sense of selves,” Bell Farrell says.

For more information on the MacLaren Art Centre visit its website www.maclarenart.com.