The Varley-McKay Art Foundation supports the Varley Art Gallery of Markham through its activities and investments.
The Foundation supports art acquisitions, conservation of the art collection, educational programs, exhibition research and an energetic volunteer program.
By supporting the Foundation you can build on our successes of great exhibitions, art of the highest quality and innovative public programs.
Please contact Francesca Dauphinais, Development Officer, directly. Francesca will be pleased to provide information about opportunities for making a difference at the Varley.
By phone at (905) 477-7000 ext. 3264
By mail at 216 Main Street, Unionville, L3R 2H1
The primary sources of funds are the McKay endowment proceeds for education and art acquisitions and our two main annual events: Fall Palettes House and Garden Tour in September and the Fine Art Auction in May.
Proceeds are applied to our volunteer program, art conservation, exhibition research, art acquisitions and educational program development.
Kathleen and Donald McKay’s home at 197 Main Street was Kathleen’s ancestral home. She was a descendant of pioneer Philip Eckardt, who was a Berczy Settler in the late 1790s.
Also a member of another pioneering family, the Gormleys, Kathleen was born in Markham and met Donald while singing in the St. Phillips Church in Unionville. They married in 1927. When the McKays moved back to Unionville from Toronto in 1957, they restored the house, appreciating and maintaining its historical significance. Fred Varley, whom the McKays had met in 1952, and who had lived with them in their Toronto home, moved in with them and the basement became his studio. He lived there for 12 years until his death in 1969 at the age of 88.
Now each year, hundreds of art students, children and adults, use that studio for art classes. And most are unaware that they are privileged to be working in the studio of Fred Varley – they don’t know that Varley built the fireplace that dominates the room, or that the furnishings and sink were also part of his working studio. Since 1991, the Kathleen McKay Art Centre in the Salem Eckardt House has also been used to host exhibitions of original artwork by regional artists.
Kathleen McKay left a founding art collection of 67 works including many Varley works, an archival collection and an endowment of $1.5 million. The McKay Will required that the residue of the Estate forming the endowment be used for art education, art conservation and acquisition.
In 1997, just three months after Kathleen’s passing, the Frederick Horsman Varley Art Gallery of Markham opened its doors. The 15,000 sq ft. gallery is a major regional gallery with a focus on Varley’s legacy in portraiture and Canadian art.
McKay Arts Centre Restoration
In 2004, through a campaign by the Varley-McKay Art Foundation and the support of the Unionville Gala 2004, a matching grant from the Ontario Heritage Foundation was obtained towards the City of Markham’s restoration of the McKay House in 2005. The project was completed in the fall of 2008, and work continues as the gardens mature.
Board of Directors 2013
Terrence Pochmurski, Chair
Susan Gray, Secretary
Councillor Don Hamilton
Sid Karsh, Treasurer
Paul Keeling, Vice-Chair
Art Acquisition Committee