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Funding boost an ‘affirmation’ for the Agnes

The Agnes Etherington Art Centre sees support from the Canada Council for the Arts nearly double for contemporary art programming.

Sunny Kerr leads a tour of the Shame and Prejudice Exhibition
Curator of Contemporary Art Sunny Kerr, left, leads tour guides through the Shame and Prejudice exhibition currently on display at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

The Agnes Etherington Art Centre will see its funding for contemporary art programming nearly double for the next three years.

The funding from the Canada Council for the Arts is increasing to $200,000 a year from the previous $105,000.

As a result, explains Agnes Director Jan Allen, the gallery will be able to extend its capacity to bring “creative modes of presentation and interpretation to the work of artists, and to develop inventive forms of participation.”

For the current three-year funding cycle, the Canada Council for the Arts introduced a new application model, one that was more competitive and that challenged galleries to engage with artists and audiences. The requests were to be “aspirational,” Ms. Allen says, and provided a rare opportunity for galleries to be bold with their exhibition planning.

Gallery staff prepared their funding application, outlining their vision for the next three years. The result was “affirming,” Ms. Allen says.

“This is not a small jump in support. It is a really significant boost,” she says. “This funding is recognition of our leading role nationally, and is an affirmation of the direction of our contemporary art programs.  (The Canada Council for the Arts) has embraced the vision that we put forward for the next three years for our engagement, both with contemporary artists and audiences, the various communities, and the partners, with whom we work.”

The increase, Ms. Allen adds, also recognizes the work being done by the staff at the Agnes, especially Curator of Contemporary Art Sunny Kerr.

The funding will strengthen the Agnes’s role as an accessible meeting place for learning and art experience on multiple levels, Mr. Kerr explains.

“In particular the increased funding enables us to be more responsive to our publics through programming that animates exchange between artists and our local communities,” he says. “I am especially excited about the renewed potential for artists to work with us on the ground – and with Queen’s and Kingston partners – for longer durations, ensuring artistic engagement with students, faculty and Kingston community members and partner organizations. Contemporary art offers a bridge across different disciplines, working as an interpreter and mediator of current urgencies.”

Helping the Agnes in its funding request is that the gallery has demonstrated it can work in a challenging fashion with positive results. Over the past five years, Ms. Allen points out, annual attendance at the Agnes has doubled. At the same time, the number of Queen’s academic courses hosted by the gallery, utilizing collections and exhibitions at the gallery, has increased greatly.

The increased support will foster further growth for active participation and reinforce the gallery’s work with diverse cultures. It also highlights the Agnes’s strength in contemporary art, matching the quality of its historical collections, including European, Canadian and African art.

“What this increase in funding really reinforces, I think, is that we are recognized for our contemporary art programming,” Ms. Allen says. “In total, the overall vision of the gallery is to make these program areas work together in a way that is really dynamic and it’s something that, for a gallery of our scale, we do extremely well. We have this unique resource of high-quality collections in these different areas, supported by specialist expertise. So they are not just passive collections but they are very actively used, interpreted, researched and used for teaching.”

Visit the Agnes Etherington Art Centre website to learn more about its collections, programs and upcoming events.