Chris Shanahan’s Lifestyle Blog

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Chris Shanahan

As a long-time Whitchurch-Stouffville resident, I’m really looking forward to writing about lifestyle and culture issues in my own community.  Visual arts, sports, recreation and education are some of my favourite writing topics. I also run my own collectibles booth at the Stouffville Country Market, so please drop by this spring and say hello.

It’s fairly safe to say that my part of York Region is not widely thought of as a cultural hotbed. Whitchurch-Stouffville, which I’ve called home for several decades, is definitely better known for its rolling farm fields, equestrian centres, minor hockey teams and a popular weekend flea market.
It’s also a good bet to say that the town’s Latcham Gallery is in no danger of being mistaken for the Louvre, or any other arts icon for that matter. Still, this little public gallery space remains high on my list of good reasons to check out Stouffville’s downtown core as springtime approaches. And for those who want to make a day of it, there’s a nearby outdoor sculpture walk and lots of local restaurants and cafes within walking distance of the gallery.

Latcham Gallery stands out from the crowd and is distinct from a commercial gallery enterprise in that it doesn’t actively market or sell any paintings or other artwork as a source of operating income. A big part of its mandate is simply providing opportunities for visitors to view and enjoy art, and the ideas that artists express through their contemporary work.
Regular exhibits showcase an eclectic array of contemporary talent from across the region and beyond. But this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg as other Latcham programs range from summer art camps for kids to life drawing workshops for adults and free artist talks. Popular annual events include a juried art show and showcases featuring the creations of area elementary and high school students.
It was founded in 1979 by a group of local artisans and visionaries who saw the need for a non-profit facility in a mainly rural town that could have otherwise become a cultural wasteland. Today, the gallery remains true to that vision of being run for the people by the people. A few salaried staff is backed by dozens of unpaid volunteers who do everything from greeting weekend visitors as gallery sitters to stuffing membership envelopes.
Promotional literature describes it as a “community organization that seeks to offer opportunities for all ages to explore the arts by introducing new perspectives and ideas, challenging perceptions, inspiring creativity, and encouraging discussion and involvement with arts and culture communities.”

The facility takes its name from the late Stouffville philanthropist Art Latcham, who donated part of his personal real estate fortune for several local buildings including what was to become the gallery site at 6240 Main Street. Its operating budget now comes from various fundraising efforts, Ontario Arts Council and town grants, private donations, and fees paid by participants in the various art-appreciation programs held for children and adults alike.
Another unique Latcham feature is the aforementioned permanent sculpture walk that snakes through the downtown core. Guided sculpture tours are offered for school classes and groups. For more information, call 905-640-8954 check out www.latchamgallery.ca.