Thunder Bay Art Gallery New waterfront art gallery is being honoured with a 2019 Canadian Architect Award of Merit


The Thunder Bay Art Gallery has that its new waterfront art gallery is being honoured with a 2019 Canadian Architect Award of Merit. Designed by Patkau Architects (Vancouver) and Brook McIlroy (Thunder Bay, Toronto, Winnipeg) the new Gallery’s architectural design was influenced by consultation with Indigenous stakeholders including artists and Elders.


A sacred Ojibway story in which the Earth is reborn after a flood upon the back of turtle’s shell was interpreted by Ryan Gorrie, the Design Team’s Indigenous Design Advisor.


“Long after turtle became Turtle Island and Nanabijou laid down for the last time, the spirits of both are very much alive,” writes Gorrie. “The emergence of the Turtle from the water to form the gallery creates a powerful narrative and connection to culture […] The gallery resides on the shore, left by Turtle to house great collections and to continue telling stories of culture, tradition and thought. The form of the gallery is organic in nature, part building, part animal, and part landform.”


Juror Joe Lobko, who was born in Thunder Bay, says “the City is close to my heart. It is a city that is challenged in many ways, but it also has much to celebrate, and I am so pleased to see a great work of architecture emerge along its shoreline.”


Katie Crowe, Chair of the AWE Capital Campaign, also announced the largest individual donor to the new facility. Thunder Bay ceramic artist and educator Jake Black has pledged $800,000 and presented the Gallery with $200,000, the first payment of his four year pledge. In recognition of Black’s unprecedented donation of $800,000, the largest exhibition space in the new Gallery will bear his name and be called the Jacob Black Gallery. Black said, “I’m happy to be able to leave this legacy because my life has been enriched by my love of the arts. The Thunder Bay Art Gallery is a big part of this and provides opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to both participate by making art, and to enjoy the art of local artists along with the many artists from across Canada that the Gallery brings to our City.”


The John Andrews Foundation was also acknowledged for a significant donation of $250,000 to the campaign and will be recognized through the naming opportunity of another of the exhibition spaces in the new Gallery. The John Andrews Foundation is also a longtime supporter of ‘Free Wednesdays’ at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery – an annual contribution that provides unlimited access to Gallery exhibitions every Wednesday of the year.


Corporate supporters of the new waterfront art gallery were also announced:

  • Copperfin Credit Union has pledged $50,000 to name the Collection Storage Vault, represented at today’s event by Allison Kasper, Senior Vice President Corporate Risk & Social Impact.
  • Intercity Industrial Supply has pledged $50,000 to name the Gallery Gift Shop, represented at today’s event by Craig Urqhart, President & General Manager.

Gallery Director Sharon Godwin noted that the Gallery hopes to see construction of the 37,500 sq ft facility begin by the summer of 2020 at the site on Thunder Bay’s waterfront south of the Spirit Garden on Tugboat Basin.


To date $21.8M in funding has been committed by the Federal and Provincial governments and $5.7M by the City of Thunder Bay for construction of the new Gallery. With today’s announcements $2.4M has been raised through the AWE Capital Campaign.

The construction phase of the new Waterfront Art Gallery Project is estimated to take two years.

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