Audain Art Museum Foundation receives $2 million donation

New exhibition opens as museum launches search for new director

A sizeable crowd of local art enthusiasts showed up to the Audain Art Museum for a members’ reception to celebrate the opening of its newest exhibition, Stone and Sky: Canada’s Mountain Landscape on Friday evening (Nov. 10).

But it wasn’t any run-of-the-mill exhibition opening: it also marked the unveiling of a new name for one of the museum’s signature spaces.

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“Tonight as you walk down the glazed hallway you will no longer be entering our lower gallery, but our newly named Tom and Teresa Gautreau Galleries following their very recent and very generous contribution,” said acting director Brianna Beacom at the event.

The new exhibition is the first to grace the walls of the newly named space. The galleries, located on the museum’s lower level, were named in honour of the couple’s significant contribution to the Audain Art Museum Foundation, in support of the museum’s permanent endowment fund. The Vancouver-based business executive and philanthropist, along with his wife, donated $2 million to the foundation, the museum announced on Friday.

“Teresa and I are happy to support the Audain Art Museum because we believe in the importance of British Columbia art and can see that the museum is doing a terrific job showcasing it to the rest of Canada and to the world,” Gautreau said in a release.

Established in 2015, the Audain Art Museum Foundation exists to ensure the long-term financial stability of the institution through the permanent endowment fund — already one of the largest endowment funds attached to a Canadian art museum, the museum explained.  

“We are very grateful for this gift which brings the endowment fund to $24 million,” said Michael Audain, founder of the museum and chairman of its foundation in the release. “Originally, we had a goal of raising $25 million, but based on the support received to date from people who love art and love Whistler, we have decided to double our target to $50 million. These funds will allow us to broaden our programs and grow our audience.”

The institution is also facing another change following the recent departure of director Suzanne Greening, after three-and-a-half years overseeing the opening and operations of the museum. It’s launching a Canada-wide search for her replacement, announced Jim Moodie, chair of the board of trustees.

“The museum is very appreciative of the significant contribution Suzanne made to the success of Whistler’s newest cultural attraction. She led the team that has made us one of the country’s leading centres for the visual arts,” said Moodie in an emailed statement.

Meanwhile, the Tom and Teresa Gautreau galleries — which will play host to about three special exhibitions a year, on average — will display Stone and Sky: Canada’s Mountain Landscape through Feb. 26, 2018.

“(Chief curator) Darrin (Martens) has brought together over 100 works of art spanning 150 years of Canada’s mountain landscapes. Most of us are very fortunate to call Whistler home — or our second home — and there’s no better place than the Audain Art Museum to showcase Canada’s Mountain vistas,” Beacom said.

The new exhibition “has been a labour of love, excitement and discovery,” Martens said. “Creating an exhibition for Canada’s sesquicentennial year which will be unique to Whistler and resonate with a larger audience was a bit daunting and quite complicated. That is, until we focused our sights on our own backyard and the mountain geography that defines this region. Within that context, we decided to go national and look at how artists have depicted Canada’s mountains from coast to coast to coast. The result is the most comprehensive exhibition the institution has created to date.”

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