Concordia's Thursday Report

Vol. 28, No.16

May 20, 2004


Gallery adds new elements, thanks to donations

By Barbara Black

Photo of Ellen Gallery group

Staff of the Leonard and Bina Ellen Gallery pause for a photo at a reception for major donors on May 13: From the left, Piera Palucci, the Gallery’s Education Co-ordinator, Susan Aberman, this year’s Pateras intern, director Michèle Thériault, Nathalie Garneau, the Max Stern Curator of Art, and Nicole Gingras, the Gallery’s first Visiting Curator of Contemporary Art.
Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

The Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery can extend its reach, thanks to the generous support of several Montreal families.

At a reception for donors on May 13, Vice-Rector Marcel Danis, president of the Concordia University Foundation, announced that the Ellen Gallery Endowment Fund has grown by almost $500,000 and now stands at $2.5 million.

Director Michèle Thériault introduced two new funds dedicated to programming.

She explained that exhibitions, publications and public programs are “the lifeblood of the gallery.” Like most art institutions, the Ellen Gallery relies on block funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and occasional project funding from the Conseil des Arts et des letters du Québec, so these two new sources of funding are especially welcome.

The first is a bequest that will finance the Samuel Schecter Exhibitions. Dr. Schecter was the founder of Concordia’s art gallery. In 1962 he set up an acquisition fund for the Sir George Williams Art Gallery and started it off with seven works; within six years, there were 250. The present Ellen Gallery has a collection of several hundred works of Canadian art worth about $2.3 million.

The estate of one of Canada’s best-known collectors and art dealers has made possible the Max Stern Curator position and the Iris Westerberg Stern Fund for programming.

Through his Dominion Gallery on Sherbrooke St., Stern was highly influential in promoting Canadian art throughout the second half of the 20th century. His substantial estate continues to support universities and museums in Canada, the United States and Israel.

However, the bequest to the Ellen Gallery is only part of the Sterns’ contribution to Concordia. As Danis noted, most of Concordia’s shared proceeds from the Stern estate, more than $10 million, has been given over to the new visual arts building going up at the corner of Ste. Catherine and Mackay Sts.

This fall, the Gallery, in association with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, will present two exhibitions dedicated to the impact of Max and Iris Stern on Canadian art.

Thériault announced a new orientation in programming, starting next November. Exhibitions will focus more emphatically on contemporary art, both Canadian and international. Exhibitions on video and film, on new trends in photography and on sound in art, are planned throughout 2005.

Leonard and Bina Ellen, who lent their name and support to the gallery when it opened in the J.W. McConnell Building in 1992, financed the position of Art Educator through an endowment announced in 2002.

Piera Palucci has been in this position for a year, and Thériault had high praise for her resourcefulness and enthusiasm.

Avi and Dora Morrow, together with the Concordia Foundation and several other donors, have funded the Visiting Curator of Contemporary Art. Nicole Gingras will take this up as a two-year appointment, and organize two shows looking at aspects of sound on art.

Abe and Harriet Gold financed the Bruno J. Pateras Internship in Administration, now in its second year.

A vigorous external advisory board was established in 1992 when the gallery was relocated. On its tenth anniversary, the board announced an endowment of $2 million — half from the Stern Museums Legacy, the Golds, the Morrows and the gallery board, and half from the Concordia University Foundation.

Rector Frederick Lowy set the tone for the future of the Gallery when he quoted former National Gallery director Jean Sutherland Boggs at the reception.

“University galleries should go to extremes. Their emphasis should be on the contemporary in a way not always feasible in larger museums. They should be an expansion of experience, an adventure into both the past and the future.”

The gallery is currently closed for renovations, and will reopen June 22 with Nell Tenhaaf: Fit/Unfit. However, it will be open on Sunday, May 30, for Museums Day, when Montrealers are given a special opportunity to visit art galleries and museums around town.