Franklin Carmichael gallery planned for Sudbury

The Art Gallery of Sudbury has ambitious plans to build a new 14,000-square-foot gallery to be named after Group of Seven artist Franklin Carmichael.
The heritage house built for William Joseph Bell is currently home to the Art Gallery of Sudbury. The gallery wants a new, much larger building. ((Art Gallery of Sudbury))
The Art Gallery of Sudbury has ambitious plans to build a new 14,000-square-foot gallery to be named after Group of Seven artist Franklin Carmichael.

The project — with no budget attached as yet — was announced Tuesday in Sudbury, Ont.

For the past 40 years the gallery has been housed in the heritage home of lumber baron William Joseph Bell — a building that has space to display only about 10 per cent of the gallery's collection, according to director Karen Tait-Peacock.

"The challenge is that the building just doesn't afford us the opportunity to grow from here on out," Tait-Peacock told CBC News. "We're limited in terms of space for our exhibition programming and our education programming as well as permanent collection storage."

The Bell home has about 3,500 square feet of exhibit space.

A much larger, purpose-built gallery would allow touring exhibits from the National Gallery of Canada, the McMichael Collection and other large institutions to stop in Sudbury, she said.

Tait-Peacock said the gallery board of directors believes the new Franklin Carmichael Art Gallery would become a centre for art in northern Ontario. It also plans an expanded collecting program from contemporary artists, including First Nations artists, from the region.

A Northern Lake, a watercolour by Frank Carmichael, was donated to the Art Gallery of Sudbury by the Carmichael family on Tuesday. (Carmichael family/Art Gallery of Sudbury)
The gallery has three works by Carmichael, a Toronto-based painter who had a cabin close to Sudbury and drew inspiration from northern landscapes. One of the youngest members of the Group of Seven, he died in 1945.

Since 2005, when the gallery hosted a special exhibition of his work, it has built a relationship with members of the Carmichael family who live in the region. On Tuesday, they donated a new watercolour, A Northern Lake, painted in 1928 by Carmichael, to the gallery.

The gallery will be renamed after Carmichael, "because of his real relationship to the North," Tait-Peacock said.

The Art Gallery of Sudbury board has money from three levels of government for planning the project — about $300,000. A site and design details are yet to be decided.

And despite tightening purse strings at all levels of government, Tait-Peacock is optimistic the gallery can be built by 2014.

"This is a game-changer for the Art Gallery of Sudbury to have an association with one of the founding members of the Group of Seven," she said.

"We also know than 25 years ago when Science North was built in Sudbury, economic times were not great then either. And look at the success that has become today. That has become a drawing card from across Canada."