Mission and Mandate
The University of Saskatchewan Art Galleries make public historical and contemporary art and creative practices that confront the urgent and critical matters of our time, whether they be social, political, aesthetic, intellectual, environmental or cultural in nature.
We need be local and planetary in our scope and outlook, guided by relationality. While the galleries are tasked to animate the creative environment of the University in an interdisciplinary spirit of provocation and inquiry, they are also necessarily permeable spaces that foster reciprocal exchange with community- in civic and territorial reach, nationally, and beyond.
The galleries collectively, (The Kenderdine, College Galleries 1 and 2, and the Gordon Snelgrove) along with our collection, serve as an autonomous cultural research institution within the University, dedicated to intellectual exploration and freedom of expression, fostering open debate and dialogue.
We are fully committed to the principles and Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and participate in co-creating the future that these calls seek. Access for all is fundamental to a public art gallery and critical to the inquiry we undertake. We recognize the importance of the past as it shapes the present and future and affirm our obligation to interpret and interrogate our collective memory.
The University of Saskatchewan Art Galleries has recently undergone a deep re-evaluation of their formation, value, capacity and intentions under a three-year process called “Galleries Reimagined”. This process articulated the perceived necessity of artistic production and dissemination within the university framework as a privileged member of a social ecology, as well as the critical role creative practices play within indigenization, diversity, and the necessary unlearning required to accompany knowledge production.
Our mission is to engage the communities we are in relation with through artistic production, dissemination, and collection in response to the urgent, emergent, and vital matters of our time. Our offerings will be determined through a critical evaluation of relevancy, will seek reciprocity, and aim for resonance.
“The art galleries and collection are among our university’s richest cultural and educational resources. This new hub provides us with a path to deeper engagement with Indigenous peoples and perspectives, greater opportunities for our students and closer ties to our community.”
—Dean Peta Bonham-Smith, College of Arts & Science, 2017
The USask Art Galleries and Collection—the University of Saskatchewan’s centre for the visual arts on campus—consists of the permanent art collection and four gallery spaces—College Art Gallery 1 and 2, Kenderdine Art Gallery and Gordon Snelgrove Gallery. They were united as a single entity as part of our 2017 Galleries Reimagined initiative, to offer greater opportunities for innovative and interdisciplinary teaching, research and collaboration across campus.
Situated on Treaty 6 territory and the homeland of the Métis on the Canadian Prairies, the USask Art Galleries and Collection seek to share the cultural richness, history and contemporary artwork of this unique location. We present an intensive year-round program of local, regional and national exhibitions and events that support the teaching, learning and research mission of the university. Our purpose is to present diverse and intellectually rigorous work by by emerging and established Indigenous, Canadian and international artists and curators alongside programs and events that situate them in a broader social, historical, political and cultural context context. Indigenous representation and engagement in particular are essential to our approach to the visual arts.
Beyond the full schedule of exhibitions it presents, the USask Art Galleries acquires and maintains works of art for the university’s permanent collection. Works of art are on display across campus as part of the Campus Art Loan Program and may be viewed for research and teaching purposes through appointment.The galleries pursue a standard of excellence through innovative programming and critical investigation, reflecting professional standards in practice and presentation. Original works of art communicate across language barriers and disciplines, making them an invaluable means of interpreting and understanding ourselves and the world. It is our mission to engage the university community in their appreciation and study, but also to create an open, dynamic and inspiring environment that builds meaningful relationships across communities.
The University of Saskatchewan began collecting art work soon after its establishment in 1907 under the direction of its first president, Dr. Walter Murray. An enthusiastic supporter of the arts, Murray acquired important works by his contemporaries. He recognized the integral place of the visual arts within the university’s teaching and research mandates, and remained earnest in his commitment to serve all people in the province. These collection activities and the appointment of the first art instructor, A.F.L. (Gus) Kenderdine, underscored the visual arts as an integral component of the intellectual milieu of the new university.
In 1961, an art committee was appointed to advise on the growth and management of the collection. In 1972, the committee contracted Dr. Lynne Bell—an art historian and professor in the Department of Art and Art History—to inventory works in the collection. This resulted in a full-colour publication entitled The University of Saskatchewan Permanent Art Collection (1980) and development of a collection database.
Today, the collection features over 6,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints, photographs, video and fibre works. Predominantly (90%) Canadian, it includes five significant Group of Seven paintings and a growing collection of work by Gus Kenderdine (168 art objects in the addition to reference material, artifacts and papers held in the University Archives and Special Collections). The collection showcases key work by participants of the acclaimed Emma Lake Artists’ Worshops and Structurist works as defined by The Structurist, an international art magazine edited by faculty member Eli Bornstein and published by the university beginning in 1961. Also of note is a growing collection of historical and contemporary work by First Nations and Inuit artists; a collection of Japanese prints; works by Pop artists David Hockney, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and James Rosenquist; works by self-taught Prairie folk artists, including Molly Lenhardt, Harvey McInnes, William McCargar and Dmytro Stryjek); and Quebec modernists Lise Gervais, Denis Juneau and Rita Letendre.
The Kenderdine Art Gallery opened to the public in 1991 as a professionally staffed facility, assisted by a gift from Kenderdine’s daughter, May Beamish. The gallery’s stated purpose was to support and create opportunities for curatorial engagement with the university art collection and exhibit significant regional, national and international works. Curatorial projects continue to be developed from the collection.
In 2005, the gallery completed a significant expansion, adding 4,000 square feet of exhibition space in the Peter Mackinnon Administration Building. The additional space now houses the College Art Galleries 1 and 2, expanded collection storage in an art vault equipped with humidity and temperature controls, dedicated work/study areas and staff administrative offices.
The Gordon Snelgrove Gallery is located in the Murray Building alongside the Department of Art and Art History and is both a teaching facility and public gallery. It provides a venue for new work by artists and curators both within the department and operates as a site of direct exchange with the local arts ecology.
The gallery was named in honour of Gordon Snelgrove (1898–1966), a painter, faculty member and possibly the first art historian in Canada to receive a PhD in his discipline. The gallery also maintains and displays works by graduating students from the Department of Art and Art History Collection.
The USask Art Galleries and Collection gratefully acknowledges the ongoing support of the following organizations and individuals:
- The University of Saskatchewan
- Canada Council for the Arts
- Department of Canadian Heritage
- Kenderdine/Beamish Trust
- May Beamish Trust
- Museums Association of Saskatchewan
- Saskatchewan Arts Board
- Private and Corporate Donors