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Bader family donates $54 million to Agnes Etherington Art Centre

The Agnes Etherington Art Centre on Queen’s University campus. Kingstonist file photo.

Bader Philanthropies Inc. is donating $40 million USD or $54 million CAD to Queen’s University for the revitalization and expansion of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, and to build a home for the Bader Art Collection, which holds almost 500 European paintings. 

The investment, which is the largest gift Queen’s University has ever received, made by the Bader family, has the potential to create one of the largest university art museums in Canada and hopes to help Queen’s researchers and students play a role in enabling societies to better understand, protect, and experience the world’s artistic and cultural treasures, according to a press release made by Queen’s.

The revitalization project, set to be finished in 2024 is being designed to be a hub for the presentation, research and study of visual arts on campus. The expanded galleries and more technical spaces will enhance the University’s ability to showcase the Agnes’s art collections including contemporary art, Indigenous art, Canadian historical art, and the Collection of Canadian Dress. This will also enable the university to have ceremonial and event spaces available to the entire Queen’s community, as well as a dedicated space for Indigenous communities to use.

With this investment, Queen’s University Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Patrick Deane, hopes that the revitalization will help to uplift and showcase diverse and Indigenous art and programming.

“I think this is a gift that will improve the ability to showcase the entire collection and make possible a much more diverse array of programming than we can in our present facility,” he said. “I think that in this case it will make possible many things that have been difficult to do in the past.”

 Deane also said that art has continuously shown humanity the light in hard times.

“The arts ignite our creative pursuits and speak to the very core of our humanity,” he said. “Even during these trying and challenging times, we have seen how the arts have provided solace and optimism, bringing us together to understand our shared history and culture. The power of art cannot be underestimated, and today’s announcement is an exciting step towards making Queen’s one of the world’s foremost leaders in arts education.”

Daniel Bader, President and CEO of Bader Philanthropies Inc. and son of Alfred Bader said that Queen’s is the place where his father’s legacy began and he is excited to give back.

“Queen’s University is the place where my father’s future as a renowned chemist, entrepreneur, art collector and philanthropist started and is one of the reasons why the Foundation is inspired to make a significant commitment,” he said. “Queen’s University groundbreaking vision for the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, a world-class visual arts institution, has the potential to transform the lives of students, practitioners and art-enthusiasts for decades to come. And we are grateful to be a partner as we begin this chapter.”

Deane also hopes that the revitalization project will supplement Kingston’s economy by becoming a major art institution that people from all over Eastern Ontario, Canada and the world will want to stop by and visit.

“When you have a major art centre in a city that already draws a significant number of visitors each year, this will drive up the numbers. This will become a centre for people with an interest in art to enjoy the art that is on display at different times of the year,” he said.

“The benefits to the city are incalculable with the ability to attract visitors.”

Dr. Isabel Bader was also present during the announcement and expressed the importance of art in her own life, and in the life of Dr. Alfred Bader. She hopes that with this investment, the Agnes Etherington Art Centre will be seen as one of the renowned university art museums in North America.

“(Dr. Bader’s) vision for Queen’s art museum was encouraged after he became very familiar with the art museum at Oberlin College,” she said. “His vision was that the art museum at Queen’s would be as good as the one at Oberlin, and I think probably he has managed that.”

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