Glen E. Cumming

FINE ART DIPLOMA, 1963 
ALUMNI RELATIONS INTERVIEW
 

Glen E. Cumming (left) was Director of the Art Gallery of Hamilton when American artist Christo (right) was exhibiting the documentation of his famous Running Fence in the late 1970s. This photo was taken at the opening, image courtesy of Glen Cumming.

 

1. What year did you graduate from the Alberta College of Art + Design? What did you graduate with (A diploma? BFA? BDES? Major?) I graduated from ACA with a four-year fine art diploma in 1963.

 

2. What’s your current employment? Or what do you enjoy filling your time with most now? I am retired and visit galleries and museums in Toronto, and am an avid  photographer.

 

3. A lot of graduates use the ACAD degree as a creative stepping stone. How has what you do evolved since graduation? How did your education at ACAD direct your career? After my first year at ACA I taught Saturday morning children's classes there, and the year I graduated I started work at the Edmonton Art Gallery as a teacher and later Supervisor of Art Education, then Assistant to the Director. In 1967 I became the Curator of the Regina Public Library Art Gallery (Later renamed the Dunlop Gallery). In 1969 I assumed responsibilities as Director of the Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery. The next position was Director of the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa.

In 1973 I was hired as the Director of the 14,000 sq ft. Art Gallery of Hamilton to oversee a four year period of planning and the eventual opening of a new 77,000 sq. ft. art gallery in 1977. I remained Director and Curator of Contemporary Art until 1989 at which time I became Director of the 49th Parallel Gallery (for Contemporary Canadian Art) in New York City.

 

Glen E. Cumming (left) at Dutch artist Karel Appel's opening for Appel's Appels in 1973 at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. Karel Appel is in the center and Marshall McLuhan is on the right. Image courtesy of Glen Cumming

 

In 1993 to 1998 I was Director of the Art Gallery of North York which had a mandate to collect contemporary Canadian Art. When North York amalgamated with Toronto in 1998 I became the founding Director of MOCCA (The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art), and retired in 2000. From 2001 to 2004 I was director of the Art Gallery of Windsor, after which I became a private consultant.

I organized hundreds of exhibitions during my 40 years in galleries a few of which were Ontario Now: A survey of Contemporary Art, Appel's Appels - Art Gallery of Hamilton Collection (met with internationally renowned Karel Appel at his New York studio and negotiated a gift of all of his graphic works making the AGH the world Institution of Record for this work), went to Senegal to co-organize Contemporary Art of Senegal, Viewpoint Twenty-nine by Nine, Acquired the archive collection of The Society of Canadian Painter-Etcher & Engravers, Visited Bogota to organize the exhibition El Dorado: Gold from Ancient Colombia, and also organized Living Impressions: Contemporary Canadian Graphics. Catalogues were produced for all of the above.  

 

Through his involvement with coordinating various exhibitions, Glen Cumming also facilitated the development of catalogs for many of the exhibitions he curated and directed. Left is the catalog cover for El Dorado: Gold from Ancient Columbia, shown in 1983 at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. Right is the catalog cover for Paterson Ewen's solo exhibition in 1997 at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA), now the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto.

 

Over the years I served as president of the Ontario Association of Art Galleries, the Canadian Art Museum Director’s Organization and as a member of numerous related arts organizations. The Association of Art Museum Directors (USA), The American Museums Association, The Canadian Museums Association, International Association of Art Critics, International Council of Museums. Chairman, Art Advisory Committee Mohawk College of Applied Arts and Technology (1979-89).

While working I collected art, most of which I donated to galleries across Canada, including; The Art Gallery of Hamilton, The Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery, The Art Gallery of Ontario, The Norman McKenzie Art Gallery (Regina), The Beaverbrook Art Gallery (Frederickton), The University of Waterloo Art Gallery, The Peel Art Gallery and Museum (Brampton), The MacDonald Stewart Art Centre (Guelph)

 

4. What insights did your time at ACAD give you? Why or how is what you learned at ACAD important? The wide exposure to various art forms and media including: drawing, painting, graphics, art history, design, metal smithing, ceramics, weaving, all of which were vital in selecting work for exhibitions, acquiring work for the permanent collections, and in designing catalogues, posters and advertising.

 

Glen E. Cumming (right) with Italian artist Giacomo Manzù (center) at his studio near Rome.

 

5. What would you most like to be recognized for? I think for the permanent collections I built, whether through purchase or attracted from collectors and artists. Also the hundreds of exhibitions I organized both local and international

 

6. After graduation, what obstacles did you encounter in establishing yourself and your career and how did you overcome them? The career I found myself in was not one that I can say I planned. I was not sure what I would do after graduation except possibly teach. I had no idea I would become a gallery/art museum professional.

 

7. What was your time at ACAD like? How did the community at the college (peers, colleagues, and faculty) influence your experience? I have fond memories of teachers such as Illingworth Kerr, Marion Nicoll, Stan Perrott, Ron Spicket, and Ken Sturdy. Marion Nicoll was a big influence, and we remained friends for several years after graduation. I used to visit her studio in Bowness when I came back to Calgary.