Creativity, play & art all part of McLaughlin gallery in Oshawa’s re-imagined backyard


Published October 13, 2023 at 11:29 am

An idea born out of the pandemic to re-imagine the Robert McLaughlin Gallery’s creekside backyard has turned the greenspace into a new type of public space that incorporates creativity, play and art.

The art gallery’s backlot has been there since the iconic building was designed in 1967 and has been regularly used for summer camps and other events but always, noted RMG CEO Lauren Gould, with temporary fencing.

“This came at a time when we were really looking to use our outdoor space … more efficiently,” she explained. “There was a desire from the team to have something more permanent and once we put it out there it just got bigger and bigger.”

The gallery brought in LeuWebb Projects and Brook McIlroy Architects to help design the space, with project co-ordinator Erin Szikora saying colour was a big part of the conversation during discussions with the advisory circle.

“Folks had some strong opinions about wanting some liveliness in our design,” she said.

There was also a desire to connect the backyard – which already boasted artworks ‘Crown’ and ‘River Tree’ – with the inside of the gallery, especially after discovering a connection to Jock Macdonald’s Painter’s 11 work Orange Impulse in some of the team’s preliminary sketches and models.

Another inspiration was water, and the final design includes rainwater barrels the community can use for watering plants etc.

Jock Macdonald’s Painter’s 11 work ‘Orange Impulse’

Phase II of the project (which the gallery hopes to launch next year as part of Oshawa’s centennial celebrations) will include more elements of ‘play’ into the design, Gould said, with a giant slide artwork coming into the picture.

“You want this to be a place where the community feels welcome; where they truly belong.”

The backyard features a new shade and performance space, seating, gardens and barrier-free accessibility to the creek, where visitors will be able to explore nature differently, connect with community and “dream new possibilities.”

The re-invigorated backyard was officially opened this summer with performances from Uxbridge folk star Tania Joy and local nine-piece Professors of Funk (featuring Oshawa Councillor Derek Giberson on keyboards and vocals), and attendees had a chance to meet the designers, help plant the raised beds with the Oshawa Garden Club, participate in rock painting, and enjoy some offerings from Masala Box, Berry Hill Café and Town Brewery.

“We’re excited to celebrate the opening of The Backyard at the RMG,” said Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter at the opening. “The Backyard outdoor space will bring even more cultural events and programming for all ages to our great city and further establish downtown Oshawa as a vibrant cultural hub.”


The project was made possible with funding from the federal government, Ontario Trillium Foundation and the City of Oshawa.

To watch a video of the making of the new backyard, check out

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