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- Dalhousie University. Dalhousie Art Gallery.
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For over fifty years the Dalhousie Art Gallery has been offering a diverse program of exhibitions, films, lectures and artists' presentations, serving as a cultural resource to the university and its community.
Prior to the establishment of the physical gallery, the University Art Group was formed by faculty members and administers in 1943. Housed in an ad-hoc space in the science department, the group sponsored exhibitions, screened films and loaned out its small collections of art reproductions. They also joined the Maritime Art Association, which enabled them to host travelling exhibitions from the National Gallery as well as to promote Maritime artists across other regions of Canada.
The Dalhousie Art Gallery was officially opened in October 1953 in a single room in the Arts and Administration Building, run by a volunteer committee of faculty members. The same year marked the beginning of the annual Student, Staff, Faculty and Alumni Exhibition, which both showcased Dalhousie’s talent and firmly identified the Gallery as a university facility.
During the 1950s and 1960s the University Art Gallery underwent rapid expansion in its collections and programming. In 1963 Classics professor Mirko Usmiani served as Honorary Curator, succeeded the following year by Evelyn Holmes, who was appointed as Acting Curator. Since 1972 the gallery has employed a series of professionally qualified directors, curators and registrar-preparators, assisted by part-time staff and volunteers and guided by an advisory committee of individuals from across the university and community.
In the early 1970s the Art Gallery held exhibitions in the Killam Library, but in November 1971 it moved into its current home in the newly built Dalhousie Arts Centre. The permanent exhibition area and work and storage spaces enabled the gallery to establish itself as a credible cultural organization, able to meet international standards for displaying and handling works of art. The move also allowed for the expansion and care for the gallery’s permanent collection.
The University Senate officially approved the gallery as an Academic Support Unit in 1985. In 1994, threatened with closure due to funding cuts, the gallery was saved by a donation from Dalhousie alumnus, John Scrymgeour. Currently the gallery’s operating budget is paid by the university and supplemented by an endowment fund. Additional financial support for programming is achieved through provincial and national grants.
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