The McMichael Canadian Art Collection – famous for its works by members of the Group of Seven – has hired Dr. Victoria Dickenson as it’s new Executive Director and CEO as well as President of the McMichael Canadian Art Foundation.
Lawren Harris, Afternoon sun, Lake Superior. Image: blindflaneur.com
“My goal in coming to the McMichael,” said Dickenson, “is to make the institution stronger – locally, provincially, nationally and internationally – to reach our local communities, the tourists that come to the GTA and the visitors that we reach virtually, so that more people can experience for themselves what an outstanding institution the McMichael is and what an important part it plays in our Canadian history and heritage, today, tomorrow and for decades to come.”
Tom Thomson, The Jack Pine, 1916-17. Image: artchive.com
This is hopeful news, since, at least from my last visit, it’s clear that the Museum is desperately in need of some – any – kind of renewal. It doesn’t help that in 2009, the McMichael estate’s trustee was accused of helping himself to over $1 million designated for the Collection.
The grounds are truly stunning, and the museum building itself is not bad, but many exhibition spaces are dark and cramped and the programming often borders on kitch. I think they really should celebrate more contemporary and relevant Canadian artists than the Group of Seven – or at least curate them into some kind of more relevant context.
Carol Wainio, Two Owls. Image: carolwainio.com
Wouldn’t it be great to see the McMichael partner with the Varley Art Gallery in Markham, where Francine Perinet (formerly at the excellent Oakville Galleries) is now director. The Varley has a show of works by Carol Wainio on view until May 8.
They had a great opportunity with the recent release of Ross King’s excellent book Defiant Sprits: The Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven, who guest curated an exhibition at the galleries. But did you hear about it? No, I didn’t think so.
A.Y. Jackson, St. John’s, Newfoundland, 1951. Image therooms.ca
I think the board could also have a conversation with Jeff Melanson, Toronto’s new Arts & Culture advisor, since his plans for the city’s arts and culture scene (as described to me) jive perfectly with what Ms. Dickenson’s vision appears to be. Outreach, outreach, outreach.
And a rebranding would be a great idea. The logo and website could be modernized, and the restaurant could be turned into a fantastic destination!
There is so much opportunity there, I hope Dr. Dickenson is able to make the McMichael relevant once again.