A new art gallery for Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario.
Overview of the Project
The Thunder Bay Art Gallery has an ambitious plan to build a striking new cultural facility that will bring world-class visual art to our city’s waterfront. The project – the most significant initiative this non-profit organization has undertaken – will create a new home for Thunder Bay Art Gallery and allow us to engage many more people with art experiences.
With the July 2022 announcement of funding in the amount of $19.6 million from the Green Inclusive Community Fund (GICB) of Infrastructure Canada, the new Gallery will be updated to be a zero-carbon building.
The location makes the project especially exciting. Our community hugs the shore of Lake Superior and the moods of the big lake shape our sense of place and identity. The new Thunder Bay Art Gallery will be located on the lakeshore overlooking the iconic form of the Sleeping Giant and will give expression to all that makes our community uniquely present and creative.
The new Gallery will be beautifully functional. It will feature large exhibition galleries, flexible event spaces, classrooms for creative learning, a gift shop and café, and climate-controlled storage for our permanent collection of over 1600 art works which we hold in trust for our community.
The waterfront area – Prince Arthur’s Landing – has come into its own through an award-winning revitalization plan guided by the City of Thunder Bay. The new Art Gallery will join the marina, the restaurants, the hotel and condominiums, the skate park and other amenities already established in this vibrant ‘neighbourhood’. We know, through our feasibility study, that the Gallery’s presence will add to the economic benefits that are flowing to our community through events, entertainment spending and tourism centred on the waterfront. Gallery construction is set to begin in 2022.
An Exceptional, Consultative Design
The new Thunder Bay Art Gallery – which won a 2019 Canadian Architect design award of merit – will be unlike any other in Canada. The 37,500 sq. ft. building will look across Lake Superior to the iconic Sleeping Giant. Lead architect John Patkau has observed “the building will begin a conversation” with this ancient landform.
The new Art Gallery will support future growth in all areas – from exhibition and collection to education and revenue generation.
- Exhibition space that can accommodate several concurrent exhibitions.
- Highly functional classrooms and studios with over three times more dedicated space for creative art learning and artist-in-residence programs.
- A climate-controlled collections storage vault.
- A 180-foot event hall with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Lake Superior.
- A café with outdoor seating and an incomparable view.
Early in the design process, the architects arranged a consultation with representatives from the Indigenous community, including Elders and artists. Observations from the consultation are warmly summarized in a 2019 article in Canadian Architect. One participant said, “The Gallery is a ‘Story House’. This is what art does: its power is to tell stories.”
Ryan Gorrie, Indigenous Design Advisor on the architectural team, drew inspiration from a traditional story that emerged in the consultation.
The story tells of a great flood and the rebirth of the Earth upon the back of a turtle’s shell. As Gorrie explains, “The Turtle pulls from the water into the land, leaving the Gallery in his wake. The Turtle’s passage represents time, and the creation of culture through the telling of stories.” Gorrie explains further that “the gallery resides on the shore, left by Turtle to house great collections and to continue telling stories of culture, tradition and thought. The form of the gallery is organic in nature, part building, part animal, and part landform.”
 Canadian Architect. Nov 29, 2019. Thunder Bay Art Gallery Waterfront Relocation Project Patkau Architects + Brook McIlroy Architects in joint venture. Winner of a 2019 Canadian Architect Award of Merit. Retrieved April 8, 2020 from https://www.canadianarchitect.com/thunder-bay-art-gallery-waterfront-relocation-project/
 Ibid. Canadian Architect.