What’s your earliest memory of the McMichael?
Brian: I grew up in eastern Ontario and lived, studied and worked there for the first half of my life. I had no exposure to the McMichael until well into adulthood. My first visit was probably 25 years ago with my now wife Eve-Ann. I remember being struck by the setting and the architecture before even viewing the collection. There seemed to be something very special about the place.
Eve-Anne: My parents brought me to the gallery in the 1970s when we lived just down Islington Avenue in Etobicoke. My Aunt Joan and Uncle Jim also brought me to the gallery many times on Saturdays when I was between 11 to 14 years old. I remember wandering through the magical galleries and always getting a special treat at the restaurant in the basement. I remember all the wood and the many windows down there, and my favourite dessert…fried ice cream!
Why is the McMichael important to you?
Brian: I have always had a love of the outdoors and of Canada’s magnificent landscapes. My wife and I have been fortunate enough to have seen much of Canada, from icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland, to Algonquin Park in autumn, and Haida Gwaii where we were able to watch a First Nations artist carve a totem pole in front of his home. Seeing this sort of thing through the eyes of the Group of Seven, Tom Thomson, Emily Carr, and so many others has given me a different, broader perspective and appreciation. Their work makes me feel part of a larger, shared experience.
Eve-Ann: I have fond memories of visits and tours of the galleries, and of the beautiful walking trails that my husband and I enjoyed when he first came to the McMichael with me on a crisp fall day, approximately 25 years ago. I recall our picnics on the grounds, and all the picnic treats we bought in the village, and brought with us to the McMichael grounds. We also enjoyed the Bindertwine festival and Pierre Burton walking around town in his period costume!
Why do you feel the McMichael is important to art, Canadian culture and nature?
Brian: Canadian history and culture is very much rooted in nature and the land. There are innumerable literary expressions of this. The work of the Group of Seven and Thomson is probably the most widely recognized artistic expression of that connection and has itself become part of our cultural heritage.
Eve-Ann: We have expanded our horizons of learning at the McMichael through various shows and informative gallery tours. We have enjoyed both the new shows that have been developed, and the ones that offer a new perspective on groupings from the collection to highlight areas not yet explored. We were in northern BC one year and watched carvers work on their totem poles, then we enjoyed the dedication of the new pole at the McMichael on a recent Canada Day celebration.
Why do you choose to support the McMichael?
Brian: I have always thought that the arts in general in Canada are not adequately supported by the public or by governments. We need more and better-funded galleries like the McMichael to foster and showcase Canadian artists. We also need to improve support for Canadian music, theatre, dance etc. “Support “begins by visiting galleries, concert halls drama presentations, museums and the like to demonstrate that we CARE about such things.
Eve-Ann: We enjoy coming ourselves for the art tours offered on Sundays. We attended the Chris Hadfield Acoustic Conversation as part of The Group of Seven Guitar Project exhibition. It was interesting to hear and experience the artists’ work on the guitar in their own voices, and it was wonderful to hear Chris Hadfield play and describe his experiences on the International Space Station.
What else would you like for us to know about your connection to the McMichael, or something else you would like to share with others?
Brian: I have noticed a significant, and very positive, shift in recent years in the variety and breadth of exhibitions at the McMichael and the way the gallery presents its holdings. There is a freshness about the gallery now that wasn’t the case in an earlier period. When I attend today, I expect to experience something different from my previous visits and have not been disappointed.
Eve-Ann: The docents are amazing, and I have learned a lot! I have enjoyed all the Milne shows, and learned not to rely only on the Group of Seven, but to use this foundation to broaden my perspective (i.e. commercial artists and their other work which have shown me the breadth and scope of the artist palate). The McMichael has allowed me to broaden my base and perspective of Canadian Art.