Oshawa’s Robert McLaughlin Gallery – food for the soul

Published November 16, 2022 at 1:37 pm

When Lauren Gould, CEO of the RMG, wants a quick lunch it’s a door-to-door dash to Reetaj, a Middle Eastern restaurant, just on the other side of Oshawa Creek from where the Gallery sits.

The Robert McLaughlin Gallery is located in the cultural corridor of downtown, beside the McLaughlin Library and the Arts Resource Center, and smack dab in the middle of a dizzying array of food options.

Among those options for Gould is “Street Momo for their Baingan Bharta and garlic naan, Isabella’s for the breakfast cookie, Mathilda’s for everything”. She is also looking forward to visiting Belle Vie Cafe and Bakery on occasion for a croissant treat.

Street Momo

Visitors to the Gallery can look forward to an array of treats too. Gould says she is really excited about the exhibit ‘Powerful Glow’, curated by Lisa Myers.

“I had the opportunity to see it at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery over the summer. It’s a beautiful, important exhibition,” she says.

Gould described the gallery’s permanent collection exhibition ‘The Ties That Bind’, curated by Sonya Jones, has “truly wonderful.”

“Sonya really dug into how much we longed for connection during different times in the pandemic, how we may have made new connections to nature, and how we wanted to connect to our community. It’s thrilling to showcase some very new acquisitions by Deanna Bowen, Aaron Jones, and Shellie Zhang.”

A new connection with nature was also made by the Gallery during the pandemic shutdown. The area behind the building has been cleared down to the creek and was used over the summer for RMG Fridays, which included performances by Juno winner Dizzy as well as one with Chastity with Mary + Adelaide.

For 55 years, since its founding in an apartment on Simcoe St. south of King, the RMG has connected the citizens of Oshawa with artists from across Canada. It has become a cornerstone of the city’s cultural life and an aspirational space for the area’s visual artists.

The gallery’s vision ‘Art cultivates connected and caring communities’ inspires ongoing connectivity with the community at large. For their 50th anniversary celebrations in 2017, an exhibition of 70 local artists was organized. Local vendors have been welcomed into the gallery for the monthly RMG Fridays since its inception, the works of area artisans are on sale at the gift shop, and Gallery A has been an innovative catalyst for emerging artists and disciplines. The Covid-19 shutdowns were utilized to extend that care of the community to how and where the audience connected with the gallery.

“Visitors will still experience the same warm, friendly welcome,” says Gould. “We were able to use some of the closure periods freshening up the space, we revised our branding, and redeveloped our website. There may be plexiglass up in a few places to keep everyone healthy and we continue to be a mask-friendly space. We are hosting in-person programming and slowly audiences are coming back. We hope as time goes on, people will continue to return.”

Watching people return to the galleries has been one of the joys of the job for Gould who has only been CEO for two years, most of which was under restrictions. “This is the longest we’ve been open since I started in March 2020, which is wild. It has warmed my heart to see kids back in the building for camps and youth workshops, to see the crowds at our first outdoor RMG Friday, and to support artists with our exhibitions. I also love that we are FREE! My dream is to see all museums and galleries have free admission.” she says.

One could venture another dream is her team. She describes them as a wonderful group of humans she feels privileged to work with. “I appreciate them so very much.” she says.

So very much enough to pony up for Street Momos’ garlic naan for all?

With files from Oshawa Tourism and Will McGuirk

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