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Agnes Etherington Art Centre earns pair of awards

Recent exhibition wins an innovation award and Director Jan Allen is honoured with a lifetime achievement award.

Visitors enjoy The hold: movements in the contemporary collection.

The Agnes Etherington Art Centre was honoured with a pair of major awards at the Ontario Association of Art Galleries (OAAG), hosted in Toronto on Monday, Nov. 25.

The hold: movements in the contemporary collection received the award for Innovation in a Collections-Based Exhibition, while Jan Allen, Director of Agnes Etherington Art Centre, received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The OAAG Awards celebrate the excellence and outstanding achievements of Ontario’s public art galleries. The awards are peer-reviewed, selected from over 250 nominations from 36 member galleries. 

Jan Allen, Director of Agnes Etherington Art Centre, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Ontario Association of Art Galleries.

“I’m tremendously honoured and grateful to receive the OAAG Lifetime Achievement Award,” Allen says. “I’ve enjoyed a fascinating career in this dynamic sector: the support and encouragement of colleagues has been crucial at every step. I congratulate Sunny Kerr for the well-deserved award he has received for his inventive work in The hold: movements in the contemporary collection. This project broke new ground in our approach to and conception of movement and access in the gallery, while staging artworks with Sunny’s signature sensitivity and altogether brilliant visual poetics.”

INNOVATION IN A COLLECTIONS-BASED EXHIBITION

The hold: movements in the contemporary collection, curated by Sunny Kerr.

Guided by the gestures and imaginaries of works from the collection – such as amassing and splitting figures or tracing paths across grounds­­ – this exhibition addressed hindrance and movement, from the global to the intimate. Kingston artist and disability activist, Dr. Lisa Figge was consultant on the formation of the exhibition, using her paths in a mobility scooter to form the organizing principles of the exhibition’s layout. 

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT

For nearly three decades, Jan Allen has served the Agnes Etherington Art Centre and broader artistic community, first as curator and then gallery director, with acuity and resolve.

As the gallery’s first dedicated contemporary art curator, she wholly defined a core curatorial area while also cultivating her own focus in electronic and new media art and politically- and socially-engaged practice, for which she has gained wide recognition. Deeply invested in the transformative potential of visual culture, Allen has organized more than 160 exhibitions of contemporary art, has produced and written for almost 50 exhibition catalogues, and contributed to contemporary arts journals such as Prefix Photo and C Magazine.

Her breakthrough exhibition publications have become definitive resources in the contemporary art field, including Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge: Working Culture (2008), for which she received an OAAG curatorial writing award and Annie Pootoogook: Kinngait Compositions (2011), the first exhibition publication devoted to the artist. Joyce Wieland: Twilit Record of Romantic Love (1995) continues to be a vital reference in feminist art history.

As director of the Agnes since 2014, Allen renewed artistic programs and built sustaining endowments, dramatically increasing participation. Allen will retire from the position on Jan. 1, 2020.

“Jan Allen has the rare skills of a great leader,” says Agnes Advisory Board Chair, Glen Bloom. “She has led by example and created an environment where her staff could flourish. And they have. Jan has a legacy at the Agnes that will endure.”