A SHORT HISTORY
The St. Francis Xavier University Art Gallery currently strives to feature exhibitions that support Nova Scotia artists, art organizations, and galleries. The gallery was established in 1976 when the director of Bloomfield Centre initiated building renovations that enabled displays of art on the fourth floor. Security problems in this open space, however, required that shows be relocated to the Council Chambers. Since this room was one of the main meeting places on campus, the availability of the room for viewing art was severely restricted.
A permanent location for the gallery was established in Bloomfield after the Bloomfield Centre Board of Directors and university administration approved plans to renovate a space on the first floor previously occupied by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Representatives from the university and the community would oversee operation of the new gallery through a St. Francis Xavier Art Gallery Board of Directors.
The St. Francis Xavier Art Gallery provided a new cultural dimension to the community by providing a place for aspiring local artists to exhibit and by bringing in exhibitions that would not ordinarily tour Antigonish. From 1976 to 1987, 57 exhibitions were held which were predominately shows by local and Nova Scotia artists. Other shows were supplied by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
Local high school art class visits the gallery
During this first decade, the gallery functioned without a budget. Any money that was spent came from the Bloomfield Centre budget, and it was up to the manager of Bloomfield to ensure that a yearly series was offered. Volunteers and the centre's general duties person provided valuable support at these events.
In October 1987 two part-time positions - gallery director and staff person were provided by the university to manage and maintain the art gallery. The Board of Directors for the gallery took a more active role in its operation and for the maintenance of the University Art Collection. Three subcommittees responsible for fund raising, collection and acquisitions, and exhibitions were established and these committees have enlisted the participation of volunteers from the local and university communities.
In 1992 the university's collection of 130 art works and artifacts was appraised by Ian Muncaster. The university has also provided funds for a three-year program of restoration and repair to the University Art Collection.
With subsequent donations, acquisitions, and discovery of artworks, the collection has expanded to 147 artworks. Although the St. Francis Xavier University Art Gallery operates on a very modest budget as provided by the university, the gallery still manages to be very active. Approximately 12 annual shows attract nearly 10,000 visitors each year.