Kenora, ON – Today, Kenora City Council approved a request by the Lake of the Woods Museum Board to expand its cultural offerings to include an art gallery. The approval allows the Museum to move forward with applications for capital funding grants and the establishment of a capital campaign to raise funds for the construction of an art gallery addition to the former Museum building in Memorial Park. Prior to being the first location for the Museum it was the Land Titles building.
The gallery project was prompted by the generous offer of two long time lake residents who have been collecting the Lake of the Woods woodcut prints and watercolours of Canadian artist Walter J. Phillips for the past 20 years. Because of their connection to and love of Lake of the Woods and Kenora, they wish to gift their collection, which currently numbers around 70 pieces, to the City of Kenora through the Lake of the Woods Museum.
W.J. Phillips was a master water colourist and a pioneer of the colour woodblock in Canada. Among his best-known and loved images are those that depict family holidays on Lake of the Woods from the 1910s until the late 1920s. Phillips’ work can be found in the National Gallery of Canada, The Winnipeg Art Gallery, The Smithsonian, the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Pavilion Gallery in Winnipeg.
Museum Board Chair Rita Boutette states that this exciting project also addresses an identified need in the community. “Kenora has a vibrant arts community, but what is lacking is a designated and appropriate space to display art in its many forms. The Museum has fulfilled that function for many years, as have other public buildings and private spaces, but ultimately there is a need for a public art gallery of significance that will further foster the arts in Kenora through creation, exhibition and appreciation. It would be one of only two public galleries between Sault Ste. Marie and Winnipeg.”
The project includes the use of the former Museum for studio, programming and administrative functions with a purpose-built addition for gallery, storage and public space. The proposed 5,100 square foot addition would include two galleries so that the Phillips exhibit could be exhibited concurrently with local, regional and national art exhibits.
The endorsement of the Lake of the Woods Arts Community and the Economic Development Commission for a dynamic art space speaks to its value as a cultural asset and also its role in community sustainability. A gallery’s contribution to the cultural vibrancy of Kenora makes the community a better place to live, work, visit and do business.
The Lake of the Woods Museum will be hosting an exhibit of a selection of the Phillips’ collection from May 3-27, 2017.