Since its opening in 1987, The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery has been a vibrant cultural hub, showcasing diverse art by Canadian with international artists.
Founding The Power Plant
The Power Plant was initially established in 1976 as the Art Gallery at Harbourfront. The original powerhouse, with its companion building The Ice House (today the Harbourfront Centre Theatre), was constructed in 1926 to house the heating and refrigeration equipment for the massive Toronto Terminal Warehouse (now Queen's Quay Terminal). Part of the Federal Government's acquisition of a 92-acre lakefront site, The Power Plant was in operation as an actual power plant until 1980.
In 1980, Harbourfront Corporation provided the Art Gallery at Harbourfront with the opportunity to renovate the 1920s powerhouse as its new home. Peter Smith of Lett/Smith Architects was chosen to undertake the renovations, the design of which has taken into consideration both the history of the building and the demands of contemporary art. Opened to the public on 1 May 1987, The Power Plant today is easily recognized by its smokestack and exterior façade, both of which have been restored to maintain reference to its history.
The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in 1987
Efforts to present revolutionary contemporary art
Since its earliest programming, The Power Plant has been dedicated to presenting new and recent work by Canadian artists along with their international peers. In 2006, The Power Plant inaugurated an annual commissioning program which included the presentation of new works by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Scott Lyall and Pae White. In 2014, the gallery introduced The Fleck Clerestory Commission Program with an inaugural exhibition by Toronto based artist Shelagh Keeley. Over its thirty-five years, The Power Plant has produced over one hundred influential and award-winning publications to accompany presented exhibitions.
Shelagh Keeley, Notes on Obsolescence, 2014. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid
In celebration of The Power Plant’s 25th anniversary in 2012, the gallery introduced ALL YEAR, ALL FREE policy supported by BMO Finance Group, offering free admission and open access to the public to all exhibitions. The Power Plant also marked the occasion with a redesign of its visual identity and added a new lobby and retail space, allowing audiences to further engage with the rich and rewarding work of contemporary artists and thinkers. In 2022, The Power Plant marks its 35th anniversary. To celebrate 35 exciting years of thought-provoking art, ideas, and conversations, The Power Plant has launched its brand new website and announced a much-anticipated return of Power Ball in Spring 2023!
The Power Plant Archives
Since gallery's big opening in 1987, we have been carefully saving all the exhibition and event materials in our archives - discover 35 years of The Power Plant!
All Year, All Free presented by BMO Financial Group
Providing as many people as possible with access to free contemporary art remains The Power Plant’s top priority. The initiative leading these efforts is a renewed partnership with BMO Financial Group, whose support of the ALL YEAR, ALL FREE initiative is vital to expanding and diversifying audiences by eliminating the cost of admission to The Power Plant’s exhibition program.
William J. S Boyle (1987 – 1988)
Allan MacKay (1989 – 1991)
Steven Pozel (1992 – 1997)
Marc Mayer (1998 – 2001)
Wayne Baerwaldt (2002 – 2004)
Gregory Burke (2005 – 2011)
Gaëtane Verna (2012 – 2022)
Carolyn Vesely (Interim Director: 2022 - present)
Board of Governance
The gallery is currently governed by an interim board of 15 Directors. An interim board was put into place to help support The Power Plant while it transitions to a new independent board that will represent a breadth of experience and diversity. Each interim director is a recognized professional in their individual field and shares a commitment to equity, excellence, contemporary art and community engagement.
The interim Board is prioritizing its attention to governance and leadership, human resources and fiscal strength while continuing to advance the mission of the gallery as a leading public contemporary art gallery. The interim board is actively recruiting new board members who will guide the gallery to a sustainable future informed by The Power Plant’s legacy and long history.
Recruitment is presently focused on selecting a new Board Chair, expected to be appointed by the spring of 2023, and a complete board of directors that captures the institution’s commitment to diversity and innovation, expected to be in place by the summer of 2023.
INTERIM BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Tenio Evangelista, Government Relations
Tanya Bowes, Governance
Charlie Angelakos, Fundraising
Marah Braye, Corporate Oversight and Contemporary Art
Susan Chisholm, Human Relations
David Collenette, Government Relations
Giancarlo Drennan, Government Relations
Martin Kenneally, Operations
Alison King, Vice President Public Relations
Daniel Leslie, Treasurer Finance
Mrinalini Menon, Marketing
Iris Nemani, Creative and Performing Arts and Programming
Tim Robertson, Digital Strategy
Jeff Tate, Marketing
Andy Wnek, Finance