Art Canada Institute

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Art Canada Institute is a bilingual, non-profit research organization based out of Massey College, at the University of Toronto.[1] Through a variety of programs, such as the Massey Art Lecture Series and the Canadian Online Art Book Project, the Institute aims to promote and support the study of Canadian art history.[2]


Established in 2012, the non-governmental initiative Art Canada Institute arose out of Founder and Executive Director Sara Angel's concern over the lack of authoritative resources on Canadian art and artists available on the Internet.[3] A Trudeau Scholar and arts journalist with a background in publishing, Angel intended to address what she viewed as an absence of accessible and inclusive material on Canadian visual culture through the creation of the ACI, which has been described as "a comprehensive, multi-tiered, online-based resource for the general public on Canadian art history."[4]

Angel gained the support of John Fraser, who was the master of Massey College in 2010, the year she began her PhD at the University of Toronto.[4] Fraser felt the ACI's goals were in harmony with Vincent Massey's vision of "the coming together of town and gown,"[1] and Fraser himself would later become the Institute's Founding Chair.[5]

Angel continued to build support over the next year and a half, but it was only after she was named a Trudeau Foundation Doctoral Scholar and was awarded a generous grant, which she put towards the fledgling ACI, that the Institute became a reality.[1] Since that time the ACI has taken shape and acquired a board of directors, an institute advisory committee, a book project advisory committee, a commissioning editor and a list of over 50 contributing writers.[6]

In its aim to create a central, online, and contemporary resource for Canadian art history, the Art Canada Institute has brought together art historians, curators, and visual culture experts in the creation of original scholarship that reflects "the people, themes and topics that have defined Canada's visual arts heritage."[7] The Institute is currently supported through private and corporate donations and is registered Canadian charity.[8]


The Online Canadian Art Book Project[edit]

In November 2013, the ACI launched its inaugural program the Online Canadian Art Book Project with the release of Jack Chambers: Life and Work by Mark Cheetham, the first in a series of free online e-books.[7] The project is encyclopedic in nature and meant for a general audience, with authors, who include art historians and curators from across Canada, contributing original scholarship that addresses subjective topics such as an artist's significance.[9]

Intended to be accessible and inclusive each volume is published in English and French, and in multiple formats and all are freely available on the ACI website.[2] Institutional partnerships with cultural heritage institutions across Canada afforded the ACI a wealth of material and every edition is well illustrated with reproductions of major works and archival objects, making materials that had been "hidden away in vaults or perhaps able to be seen only at specific galleries" available to a wider audience.[10]

The artists in the series are usually considered "seminal figures in Canadian art,"[11] and include works by Joyce Wieland, Yves Gaucher, Pitseolak Ashoona, Prudence Heward and Harold Town.[12] The Canadian Online Art Book Project also aims to address "holes in Canadian art history"[13] by featuring artists absent from the mainstream narrative. In an interview founder Angel explains that the ACI means to "redefine the canon"[6] by providing "a balance between well-known artists, such as Michael Snow, and artists who should be household names but are not, such as Kathleen Munn," a painter who was highly respected in her time, but is now on the fringes of the Canadian art historical canon.[13]

The ACI Massey Art Lecture Series[edit]

Another way that the ACI fulfills their mandate to make "Canadian art history a contemporary conversation,"[13] is through its Lecture Series, which is open to the public and given by the authors of the online art books on the occasion of the publication of each new title. These lectures, which are held at Massey College University of Toronto, are videotaped and posted on the ACI website.

Other ACI Programs[edit]

Other projects under development by the Institute include: ACI Art Apps that will allow the public to discover the works of Canadian artists using their phone or tablet; ACI Virtual Art Exhibitions that will enable the ACI to function as an art museum without walls by offering audiences regular online art exhibitions curated by the country's leading museum and gallery professionals; and the ACI Art Monograph Series, a printed monographic series that will grow out of their Online Art Book Project.[14]

Another emerging program is their ACI Secondary School Art Connect, an initiative that addresses the under-representation of Canadian art history in secondary schools through collaboratively created curricula that teachers can use in the classroom. These online resources will engage students with a wide range of issues through Canadian visual culture, supporting the development of visual literacy.[14]


  1. ^ a b c Adams, James (22 November 2013). "How the Art Canada Institute is breathing digital life into Canadian art". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  2. ^ a b MacQueen, Ken (17 November 2013). "Meet Canada's first celebrity photographer: William Notman, along with a host of forgotten artists, gets his 21st-century moment". Maclean's. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  3. ^ White, Murray (21 November 2013). "Art Canada Institute: A true north art history, online and free". The Star. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  4. ^ a b Balzer, David (27 November 2013). "Project Illuminates Canadian Art History for 21st Century Audience". Canadian Art. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  5. ^ "Who We Are, ACI Masthead". Art Canada Institute. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
  6. ^ a b Dale, Stephen (13 January 2016). "Tom Thomson: Life and Work brings a Canadian icon into the Digital Age". NGC Magazine. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  7. ^ a b Curcio, Tony (9 December 2013). "The new Art Canada Institute releases free Online Art Books". Graphic Arts Magazine. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
  8. ^ "ACIAC - Quick View". Canada Revenue Agency. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  9. ^ Baldassi, Julie (25 November 2013). "Bringing Canadian art books online with the Art Canada Institute". Quill and Quire. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  10. ^ "Canadian art e-book series spotlights homegrown artists". CBC News. 13 December 2013. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  11. ^ Whyte, Murray (21 November 2013). "Art Canada Institute: A true north art history, online and free". The Star. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
  12. ^ "Canadian Online Art book Project". Retrieved January 22, 2019.
  13. ^ a b c Goodden, Sky (17 December 2013). "Sara Angel Brings Canadian Art History Into the 21st Century". Blouin ArtInfo Canada. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
  14. ^ a b "What We Do, Our Programs". Art Canada Institute. Retrieved 18 January 2016.

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