The Establishment of an Art Centre
A notable highlight of our history, is that fifty years ago, a small committee of women from the CFUW St Thomas Chapter (then known as the ‘University Women’s Club’) united with a clearly defined vision to fill a void our members had observed in our community – an art collection and exhibition space. Our Arts and Library Interest Group, with an executive committee ably led by Lois Farley (Chair), Sybil Hagerman (Treasurer), and Bert McKay (Secretary) set off to garner support, both in-kind and financial for the formation of an Art Gallery Foundation. This Foundation is still in existence today and provides the backbone funding needed to house a permanent collection of art, the St. Thomas-Elgin Public Art Centre. It is a point of pride for our membership that, over the years, this Art Centre has grown and expanded to a state of the art facility that offers exceptional community programming, art education for all ages, and a permanent art collection valued at over $2.5 million.
Black and white photograph used in St. Thomas Times-Journal article published April 5, 1969 with caption:
A wide variety of prized paintings and objects d’art have been assembled for the art auction to be held on April 21. Pictured here, examining some of the paintings that have been donated are, left to right, Mrs. W.K.A. McKay, co-convenor; Mrs. Dana Porter, president of the University Women’s Club; Mrs.George Disbrowe, John Wise, Elgin County warden who will act as cashier for the auction, and Mrs. Robert Farley, convenor.
Black and white photograph used in St. Thomas Times-Journal article published January 13, 1969 with caption:
This painting by St. Thomas artist Clark McDougall, is the subject of a fundraising drive by the University Women’s Club (UWC) of St. Thomas. The club wishes to purchase the painting for a future Elgin County Art Gallery. The painting, now on display in the Bell Telephone Company office on Talbot Street, is being examined by Mrs. E. S. Hagerman (left) and Mrs. W.Scott McKay, of the creative arts committee of the UWC.
The Iconic Mother & Child Statue
Standing proudly outside the steps of the St. Thomas Public Library is a bronze sculpture of a nude mother and child by Czechoslovakian-born artist Jiri M. Hanzalek. The statue, called Mother and Child, was purchased and donated to the City of St. Thomas in 1978 as part of a fundraising campaign largely led by CFUW St. Thomas members. Starting in 1975, the group was hard at work preparing for auctions and art sales to raise funds to be used towards the purchase of the statue.
St. Thomas Times-Journal article published May 24, 1975 with caption:
This is the statue, called Mother and Child, which is presently the object of a fundraising campaign to purchase it for permanent display in front of the St. Thomas-Elgin Library, Curtis Street, St. Thomas. The work was done by artist Jiri Hanzalek, director of the Art Gallery of St. Thomas and Elgin, and has been on display (free of rent) in front of the new library since shortly before its opening, last October. The artist is asking $20,000 for the object.
Children’s Fun Series
If you were school age in St. Thomas in the late 1980s and early 1990s, you may have remembered St. Thomas receiving a visit from the renowned storybook author Robert Munsch or television personality Eric Nagler from the beloved Elephant Show (also known as Sharon, Lois, and Bram). Or, perhaps, you remember a ballet production of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? These were part of a community project put on by CFUW, spearheaded by members Helen Blake and Judy Thorner. The Children’s Fun Series, often held at Central United Church, hosted many puppeteers and theatre troops. All the money raised during its 10-year run went towards a growing CFUW scholarship fund.