In 1983, Canada lost its two national visual-arts magazines. Artmagazine (edited by the late Pat Fleisher) folded. And Daniel Cooper, a lawyer on the board of artscanada (edited by Anne Brodzky), called Michael de Pencier of Key Publishers to let him know that the magazine, which had been around for about 40 years (as artscanada since 1967), had just been denied a grant by the Canada Council and had such a big deficit that it could no longer function.
Cooper offered him artscanada’s subscription list, gratis, if de Pencier wanted to take up the challenge of starting a new visual-arts magazine. De Pencier did. He felt strongly that Canada would be culturally poorer without such a publication. Though the board of Key Publishers turned his proposal down, concerned the publication wouldn’t survive, de Pencier approached Lloyd Hodgkinson at Maclean Hunter, which printed several of Key’s publications, and asked for its support. Maclean Hunter agreed to share its substantial subscription lists and help promote the magazine.
De Pencier went back to Key’s board. In September 1984, the first issue of Canadian Art was released, with Wanda Koop on the cover. Though many were committed to the project, from the outset it proved difficult to sustain purely based on advertising and newsstand sales alone. In 1991, then-editor Sarah Milroy flew to Ottawa to pitch Revenue Canada on granting Canadian Art non-profit status.
“There were about four of them in the presentation, men and women,” Milroy recalls. “We all got sort of overwhelmed. When you’re sincere about caring about something, it’s unmistakable. I thought it would be the most horrifying waste if this opportunity that Key and Maclean Hunter had managed to sustain was going to be wasted, because you knew it would be another 20 years before someone had the balls to try again. So we fought hard.”
Canadian Art was granted non-profit status soon after, and the Canadian Art Foundation was born. Ownership of Canadian Art was transferred to the Canadian Art Foundation, which, a year later, received charitable status.
As an educational, non-profit entity, the foundation was empowered to raise funds. Milroy, then-publisher Debbie Gibson and the new director of development, Ann Webb, began by dreaming up the Gallery Hop fundraiser, which took place for the first time in the fall of 1996. The fundraiser is now one of the most anticipated events in the Toronto fall art season.
Today, the Canadian Art Foundation organizes an array of programs aimed at creating a diverse and engaging platform for people to connect with the arts and artists in Canada.
The Canadian Art Foundation has continued to grow, providing a destination for artists and art enthusiasts to connect and be inspired by art, in turn creating greater local, national and global visibility for the extraordinary artistic talent in Canada.
In addition to publishing Canadian Art and canadianart.ca, the Canadian Art Foundation also presents innovative events and educational programs including School Hop, Gallery Day, the TD North/South Exchange and the International Speaker Series. This range of programs supports Canadian Art‘s mandate to engage audiences nationwide and address urgent and evolving issues through the lens of contemporary art and culture.