Oakville Galleries is comprised of two previously independent sites: Oakville Galleries in Gairloch Gardens and Oakville Galleries at Centennial Square. The galleries formally amalgamated in 1978.
History of Gairloch Gardens
Gairloch Gardens and the adjoining grounds was formerly a private estate that was bequeathed to the Town of Oakville in 1971 by James Gairdner. In his will, Gairdner, a Toronto investment dealer, requested that the residence be used "as an art gallery for the display of works of art by contemporary artists, and the remaining land become a public park." In January 1972, the Town of Oakville took over the eleven-acre estate and, through the efforts of a group of dedicated volunteers, the residence began to function as an art gallery, known initially as Gairloch Gallery, in 1974.
Today, Oakville Galleries in Gairloch Gardens is situated in what used to be the main house. Lt. Col. W.G. MacKendrick built this Tudor-style residence in 1922 and, upon his death in 1960, Gairdner purchased it and the grounds. Of Scottish parentage, Gairdner named the estate "Gairloch" after a small village in Scotland whose name, when literally translated from the Gaelic, means "short lake."
The former residence's first floor now comprises four rooms designated for exhibition programming, as well as an education centre, which is used primarily for art classes, workshops, lectures, and receptions. The second floor houses administrative office space for staff and another education room, which hosts art classes and workshops. The third floor is used for archives and also contains a small apartment for visiting artists and curators.
The white clapboard building north of the gallery, was built to Gairdner's personal specifications and was used as a studio in his later life. The Studio, as it is now called, is an event venue that is available for short-term rentals, such as meetings, workshops and small functions.
In recognition of its historical and architectural significance, Gairloch Gardens was designated an historic property under the Ontario Heritage Act in 1986. This designation ensures the preservation and protection of Gairloch's future sense of place and historical continuity.
History of Centennial Square
As its Centennial project, the Town of Oakville developed and implemented an initiative to house a public library and art gallery in one complex at the northwest corner of Navy Street and Lakeshore Road. The project was realized in September 1967 with Centennial Gallery, as it was then known, initially operating as a joint initiative of the Centennial Gallery Board and the Oakville Public Library Board.
While still housed in the Oakville Public Library, Oakville Galleries at Centennial Square became an independent organization with its own Board of Directors in 1980.