After 35 years of working at major Canadian art galleries, Louise Dompierre is setting her sights elsewhere.
Last week, the Art Gallery of Hamilton announced that Dompierre will be stepping down as its CEO and president at the end of 2014. Prior to joining the AGH in 1998, Dompierre was associate director/chief curator at Toronto’s Power Plant, where she co-curated that gallery’s inaugural 1987 exhibition “Toronto: A Play of History,” among other exhibitions.
Dompierre tells Canadian Art that after wrapping things up at the AGH, she is planning on living half the year in Europe, half in Canada.
“I have been involved with the arts all my life, so I will have some involvement in it in future as well,” she says—though in what precise way is not clear as of yet.
During her term in Hamilton, Dompierre has seen major gains in gallery attendance and revenue. In 1998, attendance was 20,000 and the budget, $1.5 million. By 2012, attendance had grown more than tenfold to 290,000—a record-breaker for the gallery—while the budget had increased to $5.5 million.
Dompierre attributes much of the gallery’s success to the curators who have worked at the gallery during her tenure.
“First of all, we built the programming side and we featured the collection,” Dompierre says. “We have such an extraordinary collection that it was important for us to celebrate it.”
As the AGH celebrates its centenary in 2014, it is drawing on that collection anew. One of its major shows in 2014 will focus on Blair Bruce, the Hamilton-born artist whose works were the first ones added to the AGH collection.
“Bruce was Canada’s first Impressionist artist,” Dompierre explains, noting that he spent much of his career in France and Sweden. “We are doing the first major survey of his work and are bringing in works from Sweden that have never been in Canada before.”
Other centenary shows include a touring survey from Museum London of Kim Adams–whose sculpture Bruegel-Bosch Bus is a centrepiece of the AGH collection—as well as a Cézanne still-lifes show.
Over her 15 years at the AGH, Dompierre has seen Hamilton as a city transform into a major arts hub.
“The arts will be a big economic factor for Hamilton” in the future, she says—and city hall knows it. Just last year, Dompierre notes, funding for the arts in Hamilton was moved from the city’s community grants program to its economic development program, something she says is “a very good thing” as it increases the amount of funding available to the arts community.
During Dompierre’s tenure, the AGH also increased its activities in interactive media, corporate-event rentals, and health-care partnerships. On the latter note, one of its recently developed projects is an art program for dementia patients and their families, developed with St. Peter’s Hospital.
The Art Gallery of Hamilton board of directors—which also hopes to embark on a $30-million gallery renovation in coming years—plans to begin recruitment for a successor to Dompierre in 2014.