Gallery Information and History
The Thames Art Gallery is dedicated to promoting the understanding, appreciation, conservation, and enjoyment of the visual arts in the community of Chatham-Kent for present and future generations. The Gallery places emphasis on public arts education programming and multidisciplinary exhibitions programming.
The Thames Art Gallery’s strives to be an institution that celebrates creative excellence, as well as a gallery that is respected and popular because of its involvement in and contributions to the Chatham-Kent community and the arts community at large. The artistic priorities that provide the framework for Thames Art Gallery's curatorial activities emphasize education, reflection on community, present opportunities, and provide context.
Contribution to the Art Form and Artistic Field
The Thames Art Gallery’s primary curatorial activity is to research, organize and present exhibitions and art related programs of contemporary Canadian art that are relevant, innovative, and scholarly. Curatorial activities support an atmosphere that encourages an appreciation and understanding of the visual arts. It also offers opportunities to present discussion on contemporary culture.
A curatorial priority is the development of electronic media/installation/interactive projects that challenge the Gallery’s audience and encourage reflection on the issues of modern culture.
Contribution to the Development of Artists
The Thames Art Gallery supports local, regional and national visual artists through the development and presentation of solo and group exhibitions and related publications.
The Gallery supports arts professionals by contracting their services as guest curators, writers, designers and editors for exhibition projects and as art educators/instructors and speakers for art classes/lectures in the Gallery and outreach programs.
The Gallery also seeks out performing artists, creative writers and musicians for interdisciplinary presentations.
Contribution to the Public
The Thames Art Gallery involvement with the Chatham-Kent community extends outside of the Gallery. The Gallery partners with community groups and organizations in the development of projects that are mutually beneficial.
In 1879, Mayor William Northwood built a high Victorian house at the corner of William and Murray Streets. Years later, T.H. Taylor who spent his last years in the home purchased it a few years later. After his death, students from Chatham Collegiate Institute boarded in the house.
In 1904, the Chatham Mineral Water Company formed and they purchased the Northwood home. Construction of an addition began in 1901 and the facility opened the next year. The mineral baths were very popular and in 1905, the company decided to build a completely new facility on the site called Hotel Sanita. The local firm of J.L Wilson and Sons designed this new structure. For a brief spell, the hotel and baths were extremely popular, until the mineral springs dried up. The facility continued to operate as a hotel until prohibition dealt a final blow to the business.
In 1924, due to a crowded Central School, the hotel turned into the Chatham Vocational School. This institution taught both commercial and academic students. The school was active until it closed in 1962.
In 1963, the abandoned Chatham Vocational School was for sale to the highest bidder. A group of citizens eager to establish an art centre in Chatham purchased the building for $37,500.
By 1969, The Thames Theatre Association for the Arts presented live performances in the original 700-seat school theatre and the old gymnasium was being used as a gallery.
Renovations to the gymnasium and the studio areas of the building began in 1975 and the Thames Art Gallery, National Exhibition Centre was born. The City of Chatham assumed the financial responsibility for the Gallery in 1980.
In 1988, the Chatham-Kent Museum relocated from the Milner Heritage House to the Chatham Cultural Centre. The Municipality of Chatham-Kent became the owner and operator of the Chatham Cultural Centre in the same year.