Vision and History

CUAG aspires to be a vital cultural hub on the Carleton University campus, connecting art, ideas and communities.

Our vision

By offering a timely, responsive and free program of art exhibitions, educational and public programs, and publications, CUAG brings people together to explore and activate the ideas that shape contemporary society.

Our history

The idea of establishing an art gallery at Carleton University was discussed on campus as early as 1970. But the dream of a gallery only became a reality because of an amazing couple: Jack and Frances Barwick.

The Barwicks were active in Ottawa’s music scene in the post-war period: she was a professional harpsichordist and he was a concert agent. They were connected to Carleton University through their friendship with John Churchill, who founded Carleton’s music department in 1967. 

In 1970, Mrs. Barwick said that, “I am extremely interested in the welfare of Carleton, as was my husband. We watched it start and were delighted by its progress.” The couple’s dedication to Carleton became clear after Mrs. Barwick’s death in 1984. In her will, she left their superb art collection and an extraordinary financial gift to the University.

Mrs. Barwick asked Carleton University to provide professional care, protection and display space for the art collection within five years. She also proposed that her and her husband’s financial gift be used “for buildings, equipment, courses or special activities” in music or fine arts. 

Carleton seized the day and launched a capital campaign in 1987. Its successful community-wide fundraising campaign leveraged the Barwicks’ transformative gift and led to CUAG’s establishment.

The University chose the St. Patrick’s Building as the gallery’s location, where it would join the music, art history and film studies departments to create a cultural hub. The architect Michael Lundholm designed an elegant and impressive gallery in spaces formerly used by the library and the School of Social Work. 

When CUAG opened its doors in September of 1992, the Barwick collection featured prominently in the inaugural exhibition. Jack and Frances Barwick would never see the gallery they were so instrumental in founding, but their memory lives on within its walls.