The permanent collection was established in 1986 with a focus on contemporary fibre art to reflect the region’s industrial base which was established by the textile industry that once flourished along the Grand River. Under the management of Gallery Director Mary Misner until 2015, the collection grew to include 213 works that represent a diverse set of contemporary approaches to the medium. In 2017, Cambridge Art Galleries received significant matching grants from Cultural Spaces Canada and the City of Cambridge to renovate the art vault and equip it with customized mobile storage units that would ensure the long-term care and wellbeing of our specialized collection as well as provide additional space for future acquisitions. Having to relocate the entire collection into our Queen’s Square gallery during the construction provided us with an unprecedented opportunity to position the collection as the subject of a major public engagement project which was titled The Whole Shebang. For three months, we provided the public access to the entire collection while it was located in the gallery. Our objective was not only to engage the public in a broad discussion about art collecting practices, but more specifically, to reflect on our past practices and the possibilities for new future directions. During The Whole Shebang, we actively gathered feedback from our community, cultural experts, artists, and researchers that will help provide the foundation for moving forward.
Cambridge Art Galleries has not been active in collecting since 2016 but is currently establishing an Art Collection Committee to support the evolution and diversification of the collection mandate.