Macdonald Stewart Art Centre

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Macdonald Stewart Art Centre
MSAC New Logo Full.jpeg
Established 1904
Location 358 Gordon Street (at College Avenue),
Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Type Public gallery
Director Judith Nasby
Website MSAC

The Macdonald Stewart Art Centre (MSAC) is a public gallery and adjoining sculpture park in Guelph, on the corner of Gordon Street and College Avenue. MSAC has a permanent collection of over 6,600 works which is a focus of research, publishing, educational programs, and touring exhibitions.

MSAC is a non-profit charitable organization with four sponsors: the University of Guelph, the City of Guelph, the Upper Grand District School Board, and the County of Wellington. As the principal public art gallery serving Guelph and the surrounding region, MSAC was founded as a new cultural institution to benefit the broad community. The MSAC was established in 1978 through a provincial act as a non-profit charitable organization. When the gallery formally opened as a public art gallery on November 7, 1980, the University of Guelph curator, Judith Nasby, was appointed director and curator of the MSAC. Architect Raymond Moriyama renovated the historic 1904 school building to create a public art gallery meeting international standards. In 1983, the Donald Forster Sculpture Park was established on the 2.5 acre site adjacent to the building. It is the largest outdoor collection at an institution in Canada and has since grown to include 35 works, with an overall objective of 50, representing artists from across Canada.[1]

The MSAC is housed in a 31,000 square foot building comprising seven gallery spaces on two floors. There are three open-concept galleries on the main floor, including a central clerestory gallery. The second floor boasts three uniquely configured gallery spaces, as well as a lecture room, large-scale art storage, and an art studio.

MSAC has achieved significant international recognition[citation needed] with two definitive, 130-page books on contemporary Inuit drawings that accompanied exhibition tours to twenty cities in North America, as well as other publications by Director and Curator Judith Nasby, which have been translated into German, Czech, Polish, Hungarian, and Spanish to support international tours.

The MSAC is widely known[citation needed] for its engaging contemporary exhibition programming including the curation of exhibitions by senior Guelph artists as well as emerging regional artists. The Macdonald Stewart Art Centre’s collection includes a large assortment of Canadian art, an expansive Inuit art collection and many other unique pieces. In 1926, the OAC purchased a painting by Tom Thomson called The Drive (c. 1916), which is one of the most celebrated works in the collection today, and a campaign to build a University collection of Canadian art was born. It is a rich tradition that continues today.[clarification needed]


Macdonald Consolidated School was built in 1904; the school’s vision was to amalgamate small rural schools into one larger school with qualified teachers, an initiative known as the “Macdonald Movement”. Funding was provided by Sir William Macdonald however, during construction, the trustees made design changes without informing him and upon seeing the building on opening day, Macdonald was so enraged that he refused to leave his carriage, boarded a train instead and never returned to Guelph. The school closed in 1972 and reopened as The Macdonald Stewart Art Centre.


On November 30, 1978 the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre was incorporated as a Non-Profit Organization and registered as a Charitable Organization.

The creation of the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre took place when the centre was established through a private member’s bill introduced to the provincial legislature. There are four sponsors of the centre: the Wellington County Board of Education, the City of Guelph, the County of Wellington and the University of Guelph.


Architect Raymond Moriyama was selected to transform the out-of-date school into a gallery which would meet international standards.[2] Moriyama’s design added two wings. The additions contain mechanical spaces and stairs, providing an additional 6,000 square feet for a total area of nearly 31,000 square feet. The façade, with its Greek-revival porches, has been restored and the original roof-line maintained.

A three-storey skylighted gallery is suitable for showing large paintings, sculptures, over-sized tapestries, and banners of all types. Other exhibitions will hand in the five regular galleries which look into the well; approximately 7,000 square feet has been allotted for art exhibitions and events. In addition to gallery spaces, the first and second levels house a gallery shop with art rental service, a large lecture hall, and a multi-purpose studio/meeting room. The lower level provides a fully equipped facility for the proper care and storage of art,[citation needed] as well as exhibition preparation. The third floor contains offices, a meeting room and a resource centre.

Gallery Shop[edit]

The gallery shop offers jewelry, porcelain, pottery, blown glass, wood, and metalwork by regional artists. Paintings and works on paper are for sale and rent. Proceeds are used to sponsor the Centre’s art acquisitions.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Bendo,Flora. Impact in art; In its 20 years, Macdonald Stewart Art Centre has established important collections’’. Guelph Mercury, 2001.
  2. ^ Macdonald Stewart Art Centre features Inuit, Canadian Artists. Toronto Star, 1986.

External links[edit]