Judith Stephens-Wells and Ross Wells

Member since: 

As long-time supporters of the Gallery, what motivates your philanthropy.

We both love attending various kinds of arts events and believe that the arts are absolutely integral to the quality of life in a community. I (Judy) have worked in the arts for many years - professionally as an arts manager/consultant, as a volunteer and working on my own art. So the visual arts have always been very important to me. Both Ross and I recognize that arts organizations will not survive on government and arts councils' support alone and require substantial community support. As a result support of the arts is one of our top priorities.

Do you have a favorite piece in the Permanent Collection. 

We can't reduce our choice down to a single work - because the Gallery has such a magnificent collection. However, we would highlight our tremendous fondness for the work of Edward Burtynsky. It has been so exciting to see his work exhibited at the Gallery and to have seen KWAG's collection grow as a result of two major donations from the artist, including the over 40 works donated in the past year. Recalling that KWAG was the first public gallery to organize a major solo exhibition of his work, we see this major holding of his work as reflective of the long-time partnership between the artist and the Gallery.

You have both travelled extensively, what is your favorite Gallery outside of Canada?

We have enjoyed visiting many galleries outside of Canada, in the United States and Europe, and Ross in Asia. As difficult as it is to pick a favorite, perhaps we would say The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York. Not only is it a wonderful gallery, but if you buy a membership or arrange a private group tour before your visit to New York, you have an opportunity to visit the Gallery before it is open to the public - an amazing experience.

What's next on the "Bucket List" for both of you?

There are two locations that hover at the top of our bucket list. While we have travelled in parts of Italy, one of the cities we have not yet seen but are keen to visit is Venice, to see both the historic city and visit the Venice Biennale. Closer to home, we want to visit Newfoundland to take in all it has to offer, including Gros Morne National Park and the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador, housed in The Rooms in St. John's.

If you could visit the studio of any artist, living or dead, and watch them work, who would you choose?

Observing the hands of skilled artists and crafts people as they work has endlessly fascinated me, so a chance to watch almost any artist at work in their studio would be appealing. The visit Ross would choose, a visit to J.E.H. MacDonald's studio, would provide insight into the other side of a family story. Judy's grandfather's cousin married "Jamie" MacDonald.  When Judy's grandparents married, MacDonald invited them to his studio to select a painting as a wedding gift. Surprisingly, as Judy's grandmother was a true lover of art and quite an accomplished amateur watercolour painter, Judy's grandfather  (who shared none of these interests) decided to visit MacDonald's studio on his own. Reflecting the public criticism voiced by some about the Group of Seven's work at that time, Grandad's more blunt side came out as he questioned whether the rocks and colors in MacDonald's paintings were actually true to the Ontario landscapes they portrayed. In the end, MacDonald gave the couple a piece of work by another artist. So often artists are questioned and challenged by their generation, and yet with the test of time become widely accepted, appreciated and celebrated. With that in mind it would be fascinating to hear MacDonald's perspective on that conversation.