City council gets a look at MacLaren Art Centre’s new strategic plan

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The MacLaren Art Centre’s 2019-2023 strategic direction, mission, and vision – tagged Enhanced Engagement – get laid out for city council tonight during a presentation from the centre’s representatives.
The plan, and a supplementary presentation called Start Thinking Art, calls for a focus on enhancing ways of “sharing our stories,” building the centre’s “curatorial focus,” and enhancingour engagement with new and diverse communities.”
Museums, says Carolyn Bell Farrell, the centre’s executive director, reflect the communities they serve, and also “have the capacity to create community through building a sense of ownership; reflecting local issues and histories; offering relevant, living formats and open representations; and emphasizing visitor experience.”
Its enhancement strategy involves:
1) Enhance ways to share our stories:
• Build enhanced relationships and communication with our audiences
• Provide greater physical and intellectual access to the artwork on view by offering audiences a wide range of innovative entryways
• Ensure that the MacLaren is a partner in community planning processes.
2) Enhance our curatorial focus:
• Build the exhibition and collection programmes on the theme of “reading through place”
• Co-create new narratives about this region with our cultural partners
• Explore narratives that represent diverse voices.
3) Enhance our engagement with new and diverse communities
• Expand partnerships and enhance outreach to engage new and diverse communities in Barrie and the surrounding area
• Develop interested, engaged and return users from diverse community groups and help them feel comfortable at the gallery
• Enhance the diversity of our board, staff, volunteers and artist instructors.
The centre conducted five strategic planning sessions in June involving staff, artists, service volunteers, and community stakeholders. An online survey was organized and emailed to the centre’s 2,700 subscribers, with 171 respondents.
“During these community consultations, we reviewed our mission; our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges; the changing demographics of our community; our current and potential audiences; and ways to measure and evaluate our progress,” says the centre.
Some key facts about the MacLaren Art Centre:
• The centre engaged more than 57,000 people in 2018 through activities at the gallery, in the schools and in the community
• It offers exhibitions, workshops and special events that “nurture artistic talent, inspire creativity and stimulate intellectual curiosity” throughout the year, delivering more than 650 arts education activities for audiences of all ages, interests and abilities
• The centre’s 30 exhibitions include two touring shows, four virtual shows, and 12 community shows
• Its staff includes 13 full-time and 11 part-time/contract employees, and 33 artists
• It is a registered charity, incorporated in 1986 independently from the City
• It has an annual operating budget of $1.85 million. The centre says it receives “cultural grants from all three levels of government comprising 20% of our total budget, including a grant of $137,000 from the City of Barrie plus facility maintenance”
• The rest of the budget comes from earned income, and the support of individuals, local businesses and community organizations.
MacLaren, as a public art gallery, strives to bring people to art and art to people in ways that are engaging, enriching and enjoyable, says Bell Farrell.
“Our hope is that this new strategic plan will help us to identify, prioritize and design contemporary visual arts experiences that are meaningful, representative and inclusive for new Canadians and culturally diverse audiences and that foster a sense of belonging. We are excited about what our future holds and deeply grateful to all those who helped to shape this vision.”