Our Past

The Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery is the oldest, largest collecting public art gallery in Waterloo Region. From its humble beginnings in a bicycle shed beside KW Collegiate, to a church meeting hall on Benton Street 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.

KWAG Timeline of Events

The Gallery's 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.

For over 60 years, the KWAG has grown from a small, locally-focused volunteer organization to a major force in the Canadian art world. Today, the Gallery is poised on the brink of extraordinary transformation and achievement with its community presence growing substantially and its curatorial programs and exhibitions gaining recognition on a much wider scale.

Presidents of KWAG's Board of Directors:

1991-1992     J. Ronald McGill
1993-1994     Robert W. Rombough
1995-1996     E. Austin Fricker
1997-1999     Sandra Dare
2000-2001     J. Michael Carty
2001-2002     Michael Beck
2003-2006     Thomas Mennill
2006-2009     Peggy Jarvie
2009-2013     Judith Stephens-Wells
2013-2015     Rita Ross
2015-             Bryce Kraeker