Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

An artful donation

The most prolific donors in Queen’s history have added to their legacy with a gift of just over $1 million (U.S.).

[Rembrandt van Rijn, Head of an Old Man in a Cap, around 1630, oil on panel. Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader, 2003 (46-031).
Rembrandt van Rijn, Head of an Old Man in a Cap, around 1630, oil on panel. Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader, 2003 (46-031). Photo by John Glembin

Alfred Bader (Sc’45, Arts’46, MSc’47, LLD’86), and Isabel Bader (LLD’07) have agreed to support four projects, all of which exemplify their passion for the arts. 

“The visual and performing arts are important for all people,” says Isabel Bader. “Sharing these opportunities is important. We all blossom when we are helped and encouraged. This is why we are supporting these programs.”

Alfred is a lifelong art collector with a special appreciation for Dutch and Flemish paintings from the Baroque period, and two of the four projects reflect this interest.

The gift includes a $645,000 donation to the Agnes Etherington Art Centre to promote The Bader Collection, The Agnes’s prized collection of more than 200 European paintings donated by the Baders. The money will fund a touring exhibition – the Collection’s first in 30 years – that will launch in Fall 2019 at The Agnes. The exhibition, Leiden, circa 1630: Rembrandt Emerges, focuses on a pivotal period in Rembrandt’s development as an artist and his artistic network in his native Leiden. It will also fund The Isabel and Alfred Bader Lecture in European Art, a lecture that will give Queen’s students and faculty access to some of the world’s most-acclaimed scholars. A portion of the gift is also earmarked for creating a digital platform for the Collection so that students, scholars, and art enthusiasts around the world can enjoy easy online access to these treasures and related research.

The gift also includes a $200,000 donation to the Department of Art History and Art Conservation to purchase a digitally assisted 3-D microscope and an electromagnetic multi-band image scanner. 

“These two pieces will transform our ability to examine works of art without destroying them,” says Patricia Smithen (MA’93), a professor in the department who specializes in paintings conservation. “No other school in Canada can offer students the opportunity to develop these skills.” 

While Alfred is a visual arts aficionado, Isabel is a long-time musician who enjoys all forms of the performing arts. The remaining two projects reflect her passions.

A third component of the gift is $70,000 for the Musicians in Residence Program at the Bader International Study Centre at Herstmonceux Castle near Isabel’s former home in East Sussex, England. The funding will enable musicians in residence Shelley Katz and Diana Gilchrist to relaunch the long-dormant Castle Concert Series, host free masterclasses and lecture-recitals for students, and take students to off-campus cultural events.

The final component is $150,000 to fund Queen’s first-ever Indigenous arts festival and an ambitious exhibition. A collaboration between The Agnes and the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, the festival will take place at both venues in March.  

“With the Baders’ support, we can celebrate and affirm the vitality of contemporary Indigenous arts across music, dance, theatre, and film,” says Tricia Baldwin, Director of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts. “We can all take part in thought-provoking conversations that will arise as Indigenous artists come together to define new protocols for resurgent futures.”

The exhibition, “Soundings: An Exhibition in Five Parts,” is co-curated by Candice Hopkins and Dylan Robinson, Queen’s Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts, and will take place at Agnes from January through April. Dylan Robinson will curate The Isabel's concurrent Ka'tarohkwi Festival of Indigenous Arts, which will include sound, performance, and installation art by leading Indigenous artists. 

“The Indigenous peoples were here long before ‘we’ came as explorers, conquerors, immigrants – however we came,” Isabel says. “They have not been well treated. Now we have at Queen’s the opportunity to celebrate and share their cultures. I believe it is important to support this.” 

The gift was made through the Isabel & Alfred Bader Fund, a Bader Philanthropy. Bader Philanthropies is a Milwaukee-based philanthropic organization dedicated to supporting causes that are important to the Bader family, including Queen’s University.

This article was first published on the Queen's Alumni website.