Art 101: Museum Picks in TO, Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal

In terms of things to do in Canadian cities, art museums and galleries can often become overlooked due to spectacle events like sports games, concerts, or big name festivals. However, as we have preached numerous times in our Art 101 segments, the Notable young professional should keep an open mind to the arts in order to be constantly ahead of the curve.

This week, we have selected one museum dedicated to the visual or applied arts in Calgary, Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. Each choice puts a different spin on the traditional art museum, bringing its visitors an interesting feel for the art world even if they are not previously familiar with it. 

If you are looking for something inventive to do with your Sunday afternoon, stop by one of these museum spaces to enjoy the art world from your respective urban center. There should be no limits on your opportunity to explore the creative side of things. 

Calgary: The Art Gallery of Calgary



Located downtown in the heart of Calgary’s Cultural District, The Art Gallery of Calgary is a non-collecting, public contemporary art gallery that also provides art education programs for adults and children. Consisting of five galleries and over 6,000 square feet of exhibition space, the AGC is known for being the city’s most dynamic contemporary art gallery.

According to the museum’s website, the AGC’s goal is to make art a part of every day life for Calgarians and visitors to the city. With various public programs including interactive learning experiences for children, workshops, talks, and family art days, the accessibility of the space is like none other. Instead of presenting art as a spectacle display, the AGC allows the public to achieve viewing pleasure and a learning experience. 

From a curatorial perspective, the AGC is not afraid to experiment with different forms of art. It does possess permanent collection, therefore devoting its gallery space to exhibitions highlighting diverse sides of the art scene. Currently on display is Pentimento by English artist Carl White, a master in contemporary painting, drawing, and graphic design. White borrows from mythology and adds colour as a twist.

For current and upcoming exhibitions, and more information about the AGC, check out their website.

Montreal: Canadian Centre for Architecture



Considering how we are always surrounded by buildings in our urban playgrounds, the art of architecture often gets overlooked. Built in 1979, The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) functions to build awareness of architecture, promote scholarly research, and encourages innovative design and practice of the craft. Over 50 years ago, architect Phyllis Lambert started collecting items for the CCA’s research collection, now considered one of the most impressive in the world. The facility now houses 100,000 prints and drawings, over 60,000 photos, 150 archives, 215,000 volumes, and over 5,000 periodical titles. All of these are used for intensive research to improve the built world.

Exhibitions and educational programs at the CCA work to enhance the public’s interest in architecture. The building itself showcases both modern and traditional aspects of Montreal’s urban landscape, using the city’s traditional grey limestone to more modern structural aluminum. The CCA garden outlines important historical periods of Montreal, featuring concrete sculptures and a fantastic view of the city.  

Currently, the CCA is holding a number of stimulating exhibitions, such as Imperfect Health, which focuses on architectural solutions for numerous global health issues, such as pollution, inactive lifestyles, and industrialized food production. It explores the solutions of green and fit cities to solve these issues.

The collections and exhibitions at the CCA really put a spin on daily urban life, which definitely make it a must-visit. Check out more here.

Toronto: Bata Shoe Museum


For the love of shoes. What young professional doesn’t like surrounding themselves with fabulous footwear? Located downtown near the University of Toronto, this museum is unique to North America, displaying hundreds of shoes from a collection of over 10,000 in four superior gallery spaces. The displays at Bata date back to ancient times, including traditional Chinese-bound footwear and authentic Egyptian sandals. 

Founded in 1979 by Sonja Bata and family, the museum is made up of the Bata’s private shoe collection and items founded by the Bata Shoe Museum Foundation. The Foundation funds numerous trips to study areas where footwear traditions are changing. These include the Canadian Inuit, Siberia, and Greenland. According to the museum, shoes reflect technological improvements, value systems, climates, regions, and social statuses. Officially opening its doors in 1995, the Bata Shoe Museum really shows its visitors what its like to walk in someone else’s shoes: throughout time and in alternate social conditions.

Not only does the museum hold an impressive historic shoe collection, but a famous one as well. Visitors can witness the footwear of Terry Fox, Marilyn Monroe, Napoleon Bonaparte, John Lennon, and Justin Bieber. In addition, the finest works of shoe artisan Roger Vivier, designer for Christian Dior, are now being exhibited in all their bejeweled glory. Check out more on the Bata Shoe Museum website.

Vancouver: Museum of Anthropology at UBC


Much of Canada’s diverse art scene owes itself to practices founded by some of this country’s first people. The Museum of Anthropology at UBC (MOA) holds one of Canada’s most impressive collections of ethnographic and archaeological objects, including enormous totem poles, engraved bowls and dishes, and other pieces in gold, silver, and wood. Fear not, YPs: With public access to over 10,000 of the MOA’s collection of 600,000 plus items, this is not your typical history museum.

The building itself is an impressive piece of art, designed by world famous Canadian architect Arthur Erickson in 1976. Overlooking the picturesque cliffs of Point Grey, the scenery places the MOA’s unique collection in its original context. Considering its affiliation with UBC, the museum gears its appeal towards students and young professionals alike. The venue is available for private parties, workshops, award ceremonies, and etcetera. Core values of the MOA center upon providing a transformative environment for visitors through inspiration, innovation, and community. 

Currently on display at the MOA are unique exhibits including Kesu’ by Doug Cranmer. Deriving from the eccentric and colourful art scene of British Columbia’s northwest coast, the display features abstract paintings finished on mahogany plywood, 3D paintings of canoes and masks, and a series of overlapping modules highlighting Cranmer’s work. Read about this exhibit and more on MOA online.