More than 50 leading Canadian art historians, curators, and museum professionals have come together to launch the Art Canada Institute  (ACI), a non-profit organization that is redefining, compiling, digitizing, and distributing Canadian art and its history for free, in both English and French. The institute is a non-governmental initiative, made possible through private and corporate donations. The inaugural program of the Art Canada Institute is the “Canadian Online Art Book Project.” The project launches this Thursday, November 28th, with the release of Jack Chambers: Life & Work, the first title in a series of 50 free online art books.
“We recognized a gap in the Canadian cultural landscape and a need that had to be filled,” said Sara Angel, Founding Executive Director & Publisher of the Art Canada Institute and Trudeau Scholar at the University of Toronto. “We want to tell the story of our nation’s art history, bringing audiences closer to our extraordinary artists—some of whom are world-renowned, and others who aren’t yet household names but should be—in a smart, accessible format, designed for expanding online audiences.”
According to the Canadian Museums Association, over 58 million people visit Canadian museums and galleries every year, and surveys by Ipsos Reid show that Canadians believe the arts enhance their quality of life. The Art Canada Institute will serve this enormous audience, enhancing the museum experience while also bringing art, at no charge, to the thousands of Canadians without access to a local gallery.
“This is a first for Canadian art history,” said Dr. Anna Hudson, Art Canada Institute Commissioning Editor and Art History Professor and Associate Dean at York University. “In an unprecedented move, the country’s art historians and museum professionals have come together to create original online content that provides much-needed information on the people, themes, and topics that have defined Canada’s visual arts heritage. Until now, this information has not been available digitally.”
Art Canada Institute online art books will give Canadians unprecedented access to the images, documents, and stories that define our visual culture. Each online book features a visually spectacular entree into the life and work of an artist, including biographical information, a selection of annotated major works, a selection of primary research documents, and an overview of the debates surrounding the artist’s legacy. The first titles to be released, which will be free to download to a mobile device or computer from the Art Canada Institute website, include these artists:
• Jack Chambers 1970s Realist painter and experimental filmmaker – by Mark Cheetham, Professor, University of Toronto
• Kathleen Munn Trail-blazing 1920s artist who exhibited with the Group of Seven – by Georgiana Uhlyarik, Associate Curator, Art Gallery of Ontario
• Michael Snow A leading figure in new media and conceptual art – by Martha Langford, Professor, Concordia University
• William Notman Montreal’s 19th-century photography pioneer – by Sarah Parsons, Associate Professor, York University
• Paul-Émile Borduas Abstract art revolutionary who scripted Quebec’s Quiet Revolution – by François-Marc Gagnon, Founding Director, Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art
• Mungo Martin Totem pole carver who taught the heritage of the Kwakwaka’wakw nation at a time when Canada suppressed it – by Leslie Dawn, Professor, University of Lethbridge
The Art Canada Institute will unveil further programs in the coming years, including the ACI Massey Art Lecture Series, the ACI Art Apps, the ACI Secondary School Art Connect, and the ACI Virtual Art Exhibitions.