Skip to main content

Our Story

The Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery is the oldest, largest collecting public art gallery in Waterloo Region, and has grown from a small, locally-focused volunteer organization to a major force in the Canadian art world. From its humble beginnings in a bicycle shed beside KW Collegiate, to the Gallery's present purpose-built accommodation in the Centre In The Square, the Gallery is setting a new direction for the visual arts in Waterloo Region and beyond.

KWAG would not be here today without the vision of the founders and early supporters and builders who created this public treasure. The first Board of Directors was formed in August 1956 with Gerald E. Eastman, a lawyer with the firm of Smith, Clement, & Eastman, serving as the first president. Board members included Elizabeth Breithaupt, D.R. Dattels, Elizabeth Eastman, W.W. Foot, W.H. Hallman, Gordon Hamblin, D.T. Kelly, Mrs. Henry C. (Mabel) Krug, Mrs. D.F. MacDonald, A.G. Magee, John Schlachter, Mrs. A..M. Shaw, Mrs. W.H. Sims, J.H. Smyth, and Dr. D.W. Whaley.

A bicycle shed located behind Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate Institute on King Street was the Gallery's first home. The Gallery officially opened in September 1956 with an exhibition of works by Canadian artist Tom Thomson. The exhibition was officially opened by A. Y. Jackson.

The Gallery moved to a 9,000 square foot location at 43 Benton Street, a former church meeting hall, in 1968. At the time, there were 400 works in the Gallery's Permanent Collection. In 1980, the Gallery moved to its current purpose-built location in Centre In The Square, 101 Queen St. North, Kitchener. The Gallery is a tenant in the building and operates independently of the Centre.

Today, under the leadership of Executive Director Shirley Madill, KWAG presents up to 15 exhibitions annually, within three gallery spaces. Touring exhibitions launched by KWAG are on display in different cities across Canada each year. The permanent collection now contains more than 4000 works by local, national and international artists. KWAG hosts programs tailored for children, youth, families, schools, seniors and community partners, and has an active membership of more than 100 community members.

Contact Information:

Mailing Address: 101 Queen Street North, Kitchener, ON N2H 6P7
Phone: (519) 579-5860, extension 0 (front desk)