Artist Robert Windrum tells us why being a Textile Museum of Canada member is worth it

Artist Robert Windrum tells us why being a Textile Museum of Canada member is worth it

Fresh out of art school and stints in New York City and Europe, Robert Windrum, who’s originally from southern Alberta, moved to Toronto in 1988. “For me, it was the best choice in terms of a strong visual arts community, good work-life balance and decent opportunities.” He got a side gig at a gallery, eventually moving to Stratford to become the director and curator of their local Gallery Stratford. He returned to Toronto permanently in 2005, and has been working in fundraising for Sunnybrook Hospital. But he’s still deeply connected to the city’s art world, and knows the ins and outs of every institution. One of his long-time favourites is the Textile Museum of Canada. Here, he shares what he loves about the museum and the city’s culture.

What’s your favourite thing about Toronto?
The ever-increasing number of diverse voices in cultural institutions is remarkable—if long overdue. I also love the variety of neighbourhoods and the availability of amazing food and festivals.

Tell us about your favourite local hot spots.
The Textile Museum of Canada, where I sit on the board of directors, is my favourite museum. It has a rich collection and the programming is so dynamic. It’s a prime example of how a museum can become a hub for all kinds of communities.

I also love the Gardiner Museum and the Bata Shoe Museum. The smaller, more uniquely focused museums are attractive to me. They are kind of the “underdogs” of the museum world and offer a special experience.

When did you become a member at the Textile Museum?
I first became associated with the Textile Museum about 25 years ago when, as an artist, I was included in an exhibition. I continued my involvement on a committee for several years following that. Upon returning to Toronto after my time at Gallery Stratford six years ago, I joined the board of directors.

I have maintained my paid membership over the years, and now contribute as a Patron Member, because I think putting your money toward cultural experiences you personally appreciate is so important.

From Wild, ON NOW | Omar Badrin, from left to right: Lacuna, Racial Mirror (version 1), Racially Unbounded, Model Minority, That Asian Glow, Makeup (series of 3), 2018-2019. Photo: John Armstrong, courtesy of the Textile Museum of Canada.

What do you love most about the museum?
I love that it’s so responsive to the communities of Toronto. It’s a place where a variety of voices can find expression. Textiles can be vast not only in format but also meaning. We encounter textiles every day in a meaningful way—but we often take them for granted. The Textile Museum is the perfect place to explore, have fun and come away with a new perspective on cloth, fibre, garments, carpets, artworks and more.

I also love the people. The staff and volunteers are an amazingly committed and dedicated group. Some of my best memories are of the people involved: the artists who have offered insight to their work, the curatorial staff who have shared their deep knowledge and the support staff who are remarkably fun to engage with.

Can you tell us about some exciting exhibitions coming up this year?
The exhibition that just opened in October, Wild, has been long anticipated on my cultural calendar. It features emerging talent with an untamed, mischievous approach. There are a couple other exhibitions in development that I have had the privilege to hear about, including one that will be looking at textiles not only in terms of art, but also in terms of science, technology and healing.

From Wild, ON NOW | Emily Jan, The World is Bound by Secret Knots, 2016-2018. Photo: John Armstrong, courtesy of the Textile Museum of Canada.

Why should Torontonians make the trip?
It’s been called a hidden gem for a while, but it shouldn’t be under the radar. The shows are relevant to anyone who has clothes on right now, or who crawled out from between the sheets this morning to open their curtains and put their feet on the rug. These are just a few of the basic encounters we have with textiles and fibre, but it’s a global human experience that runs deep and rich.

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