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Why We're Here

Cambridge Galleries, now Idea Exchange has deep roots in the community and Waterloo region.  We are a medium size institution with an ambitious track record, presenting contemporary Canadian exhibitions of art, architecture and design with curatorial rigour for more than 35 years.

We place huge importance on free public access to art and ideas and believe that it is our purpose to create opportunities for all ages to appreciate the value of the arts; to engage our audience in discussion and debate; and to support artists and the creative sector. Idea Exchange brings the potential to give us an even broader platform to carry out this mission.

Our History

Our public programming in the City of Cambridge began in 1977 with Eric Dewdney as the founding director. The mezzanine on the second floor of the main library (Queen’s Square) was then the prime exhibition space. Soon after, a gallery featuring regular exhibitions of work by regional and emerging artists was introduced within our Preston library.

In the mid-eighties, a much improved gallery area was created on the second floor of the main library location in the former concert hall.

A major expansion of the Queen’s Square library and gallery was completed in 1993, making it possible for the gallery operation to move to the main floor, greatly improving the gallery’s public profile and ability to increase all aspects of our programming including the studio program that continues to reach into the community from all four Cambridge library locations.

When the University Of Waterloo School Of Architecture moved from the main campus to Cambridge, we became partners in a gallery operation within the school’s new facility in the former Riverside Silk Mill on Melville Street. This third exhibition space, Design at Riverside, with its mandate to exhibit architecture and design has presented remarkable opportunities for the growth of Cambridge Galleries, locally, nationally and internationally.

Collectively, our galleries present over twenty exhibitions a year. All are free to the public and all locations have extensive open hours. The nature of the exhibitions is diverse in terms of both material and the artists’ points of view.

Like most public art galleries, we have a permanent collection which we hold in public trust. The region’s early industrial base was established by the textile industry that flourished in mills along the Grand River. It was this heritage that guided our decision to focus on collecting textile based work; however the works in the collection are decidedly contemporary. We continue to develop the collection, representing Canadian artists from coast to coast, and regularly lend works for exhibition to other public galleries across the country. The collection has largely grown with the assistance of many dedicated volunteers who for many years organized annual fundraising events in support of the collection. Since 1986, we have organized a biennial national juried exhibition, Fibreworks that showcases the work of Canadian artists working in the fibre/textile medium.

Our collaboration with Waterloo Architecture has been a great success and our ongoing relationship with the Cambridge library system and its multiple locations enables access to the wide spectrum of exhibitions, programs and activities offered by Cambridge Galleries throughout the City of Cambridge.