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ICYMI: Associates Celebrated Seven Decades

The organizers of the first Winnipeg Show included several members of the Associates, 1955.

In 1948 the WAG, like so many other Canadian institutions, was struggling to survive, let alone thrive, after the devastating years of the Depression and WWII. The Board of Governors of the WAG realized they needed help to find a new location for the Gallery and sufficient funds to operate it.

The Board asked Muriel Richardson to form an Auxiliary to the Board. A committee was formed in a matter of months. The founding members were Eileen Abbott, Lillian Allen, Isabel Chester, Alice Dexter, Patricia Guy, Clara Lander, Phyllis MacAulay, Dorinda Mutchmore, Dorothy Naylor, Helen Purves, Muriel Richardson, and Irene Thompson. Soon they were 27 strong and their aims were to support the Board and stimulate public interest in the Gallery.

That was over 70 years ago. Since then the Auxiliary to the Board has undergone several name changes (now known as Associates of the Winnipeg Art Gallery). But what has not changed has been its vision and the determination of its members to support the WAG through volunteerism, fundraising, and outreach into the community.

These were and continue to be lofty goals, to be sure. After seven decades of dedicated service through volunteerism, the Associates and their predecessors can be proud of their legacy that includes:

  • Providing seed money to establish the WAG Foundation in 1978 to support acquisitions and exhibitions, sustaining the Foundation through donations totalling more than $900,000 to date.
  • Contributing to the acquisition of over 1,850 works of art, including support for Inuit art exhibitions through fundraising endeavours.
  • Establishing and operating the Gallery Shop.
  • Establishing Art Rental and Sales, initially with the Junior League.
  • Assisting in creating the Clara Lander Library.
  • Awarding more than 900 WAG Studio scholarships to young people.
  • Supporting the creation of the world’s first Inuit Art Centre.

This is a legacy worth applauding! Last year, the Associates did just that, when they gathered at Government House at the invitation of the Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable Janice Filmon, to celebrate the accomplishments of the founders and pioneers of the past 70 years. The WAG was delighted that one of the original founders, Patricia Guy, was in attendance. At the event, the Associates presented the WAG with Jutai Toonoo’s Someday We Will Be Free of Cancer (2012) in honour of the anniversary.


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