The new Art Canada Institute releases free Online Art Books

More than 50 leading Canadian art historians, curators and museum professionals have come together to launch the Art Canada Institute (ACI), a non-profit organization that is redefining, compiling, digitizing and distributing Canadian art and its history for free, in both English and French. The institute is a non-governmental initiative made possible through private and corporate donations. It basically digitizes Canada’s visual culture and builds a new resource via free, expert-authored online art books that offer a 21st-century take on Canadian art history.

“We recognized a gap in the Canadian cultural landscape and a need that had to be filled,” said Sara Angel, Founding Executive Director & Publisher of the Art Canada Institute and Trudeau Scholar at the University of Toronto (pictured previously). “We want to tell the story of our nation’s art history, bringing audiences closer to our extraordinary artists – some of whom are world-renowned, and others who aren’t yet household names but should be – in a smart, accessible format, designed for expanding online audiences.”

The inaugural program of the Art Canada Institute (ACI) was the “Canadian Online Art Book Project” launched on November 28 with the release of Jack Chambers: Life & Work – the first title in a series of 50 free online art books.

According to the Canadian Museums Association, over 58 million people visit Canadian museums and galleries every year, and surveys show that Canadians believe that the arts enhance their quality of life. The Art Canada Institute will serve this enormous audience, enhancing the museum experience while also bringing art, at no charge, to the thousands of Canadians without access to a local gallery.

“This is a first for Canadian art history,” said Dr. Anna Hudson, Art Canada Institute Commissioning Editor, Art History Professor and Associate Dean at York University. “In an unprecedented move, the country’s art historians and museum professionals have come together to create original online content that provides much-needed information on the people, themes and topics that have defined Canada’s visual arts heritage. Until now, this information has not been available digitally.”

The first titles to be released, which will be free to download to a mobile device or computer from the Art Canada Institute website, include these artists:

artcanada-in• Jack Chambers, 1970s realist painter and experimental filmmaker by Mark Cheetham, Professor, University of Toronto.

• Kathleen Munn, trail-blazing 1920s artist who exhibited with the Group of Seven by Georgiana Uhlyarik, Associate Curator, Art Gallery of Ontario.

• Michael Snow, a leading figure in new media and conceptual art by Martha Langford, Professor, Concordia University.

• William Notman, Montreal’s 19th-century photography pioneer by Sarah Parsons, Associate Professor, York University.

• Paul-Émile Borduas  Abstract art revolutionary who scripted Quebec’s Quiet Revolution by François-Marc Gagnon, Founding Director, Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art.

• Mungo Martin, Totem pole carver who taught the heritage of the Kwakwaka’wakw nation at a time when Canada suppressed it, by Leslie Dawn, Professor, University of Lethbridge.

The Art Canada Institute will unveil further programs in the coming years, including the ACI Massey Art Lecture Series, the ACI Art Apps, the ACI Secondary School Art Connect, and the ACI Virtual Art Exhibitions.

The ACI is a bilingual research organization and registered Canadian charity based at Massey College, University of Toronto. It is the only national institution whose exclusive mandate is to promote the study of Canadian art history to as broad an audience as possible.

More information: