Beaverbrook Gallery’s Harrison-McCain Pavilion opens as ‘the community’s living room’

Inauguration of the new wing of the Beaverbrook art gallery. (Liam Carleton/AQ)

After nearly three years of construction, the new additions to Fredericton’s Beaverbrook Art Gallery are complete — with the Harrison-McCain Pavilion reshaping the building.

“People have really embraced the new space,” said Tom Smart, director of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. “The reaction shows that people are pretty excited about it.”

The new pavilion officially opened during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 10. Multiple speakers took to the podium, representing all parts of the Fredericton community.

Inside of the Harrison-McCain Pavilion (Liam Carleton/AQ)

Along with an Indigenous blessing by Maggie Paul, speakers included Mayor Kate Rogers, St. Mary’s First Nation Chief Allan Polchies, New Brunswick’s tourism, heritage and culture minister Tammy Scott-Wallace, businessman Jamie Irving and curator John Leroux – each taking time to explain why the new pavilion is important to them.

The finished construction adds about 9,000 square feet, bringing the new easily accessible entrance right to the Queen Street sidewalk. The modernist style encapsulates the original structure, attaching large pillars and a ramp at the entrance.

New art expositions at the Harrison-McCain Pavilion. (Liam Carleton/AQ)

Smart said the new additions both reflect and respect the existing buildings in the downtown area.

“I’d like to think of it as the community’s living room,” he said. “People can use it as a social space where they can learn about art, learn about ideas and debate with their friends to really build community.”

STU visual arts instructor Colleen Wolstenholme echoes Smart’s sentiments, believing the new opening space is “wonderful.” After nearly 30 years as an artist and visual arts instructor, she’s happy to see how the new entrance ties in with the rest of the area.

“[The finished construction] gives it a great sort of entrance for downtown in a sense, but also for the community to have something this special,” said Wolstenholme.

Emma Hassenchal-Perley, a Wolastoqew artist and teacher, agrees the new pavilion will provide new opportunities for local artists, specifically Indigenous creators. Soon there will be a mural in the entryway by Mi’kmaq artist Jordan Bennett.

Hassenchal-Perley said the new pavilion will attract a younger audience and she hopes students come to reflect on the showcases.

Wolstenholme believes the pavilion could be the “centrepiece” for the arts and tourism sectors in Fredericton and plans on regularly taking classes on trips to the Beaverbrook this year.

“It has a lot of historical stuff. That’s quite important, and in this part of Canada, there’s nothing that compares really in that department,” said Wolstenholme.

New historical exposition at the Harrison-McCain Pavilion. (Liam Carleton/AQ)

Apart from visitors, Wolstenholme said the renovations will attract both Canadian and international artists.

Smart agrees the new space will attract a wide demographic, especially after the lull of the COVID-19 pandemic. The gallery will adjust its hours to make itself “more appealing” to students and people who work during the day.

“It’s going to be a great event space for the city — That we actually live up to the dream of a national gallery right here in Fredericton,” said Smart.