The Kamloops Art Gallery (KAG) is celebrating its 40th anniversary by showcasing the most comprehensive selection of works from its permanent collection to date. The exhibition, Through the Memory Atlas: 40 Years of Collecting, is a collection of diverse works from across the KAG’s history.
“Essentially this project is celebrating our 40th anniversary,” said Charo Neville, the gallery’s curator.
The exhibition contains 167 pieces from a variety of mediums including print, photography, sculpting and even video. However, despite being the largest showcase of the KAG’s permanent collection to date, the exhibition contains only a fraction of the gallery’s many pieces, says Neville.
“We have four exhibitions a year and we support the work of living artists and we do temporary exhibitions. But there is rarely an opportunity to do shows completely drawn from our collection,” Neville said. “I can pretty confidently say that this is the most permanent-collection work we have had in one exhibition.”
In addition to the 40th-anniversary exhibition, the gallery also has a timeline of its history. The KAG officially became a society in 1978 evolving out of the Kamloops Arts and Crafts Club, says Neville, which started a permanent collection in 1967 that would one day be used in a gallery.
This dream came closer to realization in 1970 when the estate of J.E. Fitzwater bequeathed four artworks to the Kamloops Museum and Archives with the idea that Kamloops would one day have its own art gallery.
In 1998, the people of Kamloops would finally receive their own independent public art gallery after a major capital campaign by the city to move the gallery out of the museum’s basement.
Though the Kamloops Art Gallery started out small and was mostly the product of many volunteer hours it has expanded to an impressive size, says Neville, with its permanent collection containing more than 3,000 pieces from a variety of artists.
“The artists are mostly Canadian, emerging and senior artists,” Neville said. “How that comes to be is really through our curatorial research, so it’s the relationships these curators have with these artists, doing research into significant contributions into art in Canada.”
Within the exhibition, works are divided by the gallery’s curators in a non-chronological order, says Neville. While Neville is the KAG’s current curator, she reached out to her predecessors to gain their input on what art they’d like in their section.
“I was in contact with our past curators, so I asked them to make selections of up to ten works so that is what is reflected here,” she said. “So each wall is a selection that was made by these past curators.”
While the gallery multiple exhibits may seem random at first, each section for each of the gallery’s many curators is very distinct and reflects the art styles, local or otherwise, of the time.
“Every approach is different,” Neville said. “For example, Tania Willard is a Secwépemc artist and curator who was with us with from 2013 to 2015 as our aboriginal curator in residence. So she took an approach where she was interested in taking a look at our work through a Secwépemc lense and looking at the land.”
The exhibition also includes a variety of KAG memorabilia as well, from newspaper clippings to exhibition floor plans. At the back of the exhibit, there is even a place on the wall for you to write down your fondest memories of the gallery.
If you yourself want to check out the gallery’s history of collecting art, Through the Memory Atlas is open now until September 15.