Our History

In 1956, when Alan Jarvis took over as the Director of the National Gallery, he called a meeting of university art and art history teachers. Richard Williams was Director of the University of Manitoba’s School of Art at the time and attended the meeting in Ottawa. The purpose was to provide a forum for an exchange of information and to explore the idea of an association of art/art history departments in Canadian universities. The attendees resolved, ” that the present meeting be constituted as the inaugural meeting of the Universities Art Association of Canada”, (as an association of art and art history departments, not of individuals). A Steering Committee was formed led by Professor Peter Brieger of the Department of Art & Architecture at the University of Toronto. The new association held annual meetings which department members could attend, but each institution had only one vote. Over the next eleven years, Professor Brieger attended various international meetings as the Canadian representative.
In 1967, centennial year, a major conference was held at Queen’s University, focusing on “The Arts and the University”. Artists and art historians were amongst the many attendees. “This meeting”, said Richard Williams, “set the stage for the UAAC as we know it.” In conjunction with the conference, the UAAC held its usual annual meeting and a key agenda item was “what can we do for the individual instructor, the individual artist?” It was clear the association needed to broaden its membership base. Accordingly, a new Executive was elected, with Paul Walton named as President, Richard Williams as Vice President and Louise Funke as Secretary-Treasurer.
In 1970 Richard Williams became president, with George Rosenberg as Vice President and Virgil Hammock as Secretary-Treasurer. After his presidential term, Williams remained on the Board as “Adviser to the President” until 1979.
While Virgil Hammock was President, the UAAC/AAUC was registered in 1974 under the Canada Corporations Act. The application was made by Donald Gordon Maxwell Coxe, Eric Cameron (U of Guelph) and Robert Welsh (U of Toronto). Officers of the Association initially were Virgil Hammock (U of Manitoba), President; Robert Welsh, Vice-President; and Eric Cameron, Secretary-Treasurer.
The Board of the UAAC consists, according to the constitution, of the President, one Vice President, the Secretary/Treasurer and five persons representing each of five regions: Atlantic Provinces, Quebec, Ontario, Prairies (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta) and B.C.
Membership was open to faculty members in art or art history faculties at universities or other degree-granting institutions. Institutional membership was also stipulated for such bodies and for art galleries and museums. Other categories were those of sustaining, associate and student members. It is thought the constitution was amended in 1984 to allow other art professionals—i.e. curators, to join the association.
From the beginning, the association was concerned with providing a presence for university art and art history faculties within the network of academic disciplines in Canada; establishing a forum for the exchange of ideas and scholarly work in the fields represented; and enabling a context for expression on public policy affecting these disciplines. According to Virgil Hammock, “My term as president was a time of expansion for the UAAC. We wanted the organization to represent both studio and art history faculty. It was not an easy task as there was some dissension between the two groups.”
He added, “We had excellent relations with the College Art Association (CAA) during this period as Albert Ellsen was president and I had been his student at Indiana University in the 60s. He sat on our board for a while and I sat on his. We had a joint meeting of the two organizations in Toronto. Mind you we were outnumbered, but it was a real joint meeting and we were not an add-on.”
RACAR was originally published by the Society for the Promotion of Art History Publications in Canada. Its first editor was Claude Bergeron of Université Laval. In February 1976 at the annual UAAC conference in Edmonton, RACAR became the official organ of the UAAC (see “Les Vingt ans de RACAR,” RACAR XX 1/2 [1993]. As the journal of the UAAC and the one general art history journal in Canada, RACAR’s scope reflects the range and diversity of art historical practices in Canada, rather than one approach to the discipline. It has also registered the interrogation and upheaval that has characterized the field internationally over the past twenty years.

* Thank you to Adele Erstrom, Virgil Hammock, John Osborne, and Richard Williams for compiling UAAC’s history.