Stage Door News

Stratford: Renovations to Gallery Stratford will include a new performance space opening this spring

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Stratford’s public art gallery will be opening a new indoor/outdoor studio and performance space behind its historically significant home on Romeo Street this spring, a major part of what’s shaping up to be a transformational year for the nearly 140-year-old structure.

At the moment, a stroll along the pathway behind Gallery Stratford takes people past an old run-down workshop added to the building when the organization moved in about 54 years ago. By April, gallery curator and director Angela Brayham said that portion of the building, originally a pump house built in 1883, will be completely renovated into a multipurpose space that includes a cathedral ceiling and an 5.5-metre articulating glass door.

“We’re in the stages of it being totally gutted,” Brayham said Tuesday. “It’s going to be a beautiful space and it’s going to totally change the way we can use our building.”

Provincial grants to renovate the space for educational programming were in place before the pandemic, but Brayham pivoted when physical distancing became a concern. Inspired by the popularity of the gallery’s Music on the Lawn series, not to mention a variety of other pandemic-friendly outdoor performances organized across Stratford this past summer, Brayham successfully pitched a flexible indoor/outdoor space and was able to secure an additional $18,000 in federal tourism recovery funds distributed by investStratford.

In total, the project will cost around $168,000. 

“There’s a lot of artists that are looking for spaces and I think we saw that last summer,” Brayham said. “There’s a demand (for) and an interest in being outside and having alternative venues for artists to create and share … so I think there’s definitely room for us.”

Perth-Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece was an important partner, Brayham added.

“I was happy to have been able to advocate for them,” Pettapiece said in an email. “This project will not only benefit their organization but also the larger creative community.”

The renovation will not only help Gallery Stratford make a splash in the local arts and culture scene this year, it’s also a signal the organization will remain on Romeo Street, something that was in question as recently as six months ago.

Brayham raised a red flag in July after local politicians voted to turn down a grant request to complete an architectural study that would help determine the future of Gallery Stratford and the aging city-owned building it leases at no cost. The study, which includes an overview of the work needed to preserve the building, has since been completed with funds from community supporters.

“Making a commitment to having this as our home and having it as a preserved historic architectural treasure in our community is important,” she added. “(The study) was really instrumental in showing us that this is the place for us to be, what we need to do to make it meet our needs, preserve the building, and help move us (toward) how we serve the community into the future.”

The city has already brought in a contractor to remove mould from the gallery’s collection room, Brayham said.

Mayor Dan Mathieson said Tuesday city staff are working with Gallery Stratford on other projects.

“Co-operatively, they have identified some areas to be addressed and it will be a benefit to the gallery and the city,” he said. “(Brayham) and the staff, with the support of the board at Gallery Stratford, are doing a great job at adapting to the pandemic and the resulting challenges.”

Nearly $140,000 in provincial funds have also been earmarked to upgrade the building’s entrance and front lobby. All together, the gallery has brought in almost $300,000 in government grants and fundraising dollars since last summer, Brayham said.

“We took this opportunity of being closed and things changing in the world to reach out to our community a bit more and the community reached back to us,” she said. “Things aren’t perfect yet, but … I see a really exciting future for the gallery.”

By Chris Montanini for

Photo: Gallery Stratford.