Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts Announces the 2024 Founders Achievement Award Winner

Rita Daniel, President of the Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts, recently announced the recipient of the 2024 Founders Achievement Award which is meant to celebrate a person or group, who, over time, has made an exceptional contribution to the visual arts community. Father Daniel Donovan is the 2024 award recipient whose passion for art makes him a very worthy recipient.

“Described as man of ‘grace, elegance and kindness ’, Father Donovan’s dedication to sharing his vast contemporary art collection and his support of local artists deserves this public recognition and gratitude from the Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts”, commented Rita Daniel. The Founders Achievement Award is a $15,000 prize.

Founded in 1998, the Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts is an independent, membership based, non-profit organization that promotes knowledge of the visual arts to its members through an extensive education program, and provides support and recognition for artistic achievement to artists and art organizations in the GTA and surrounding area.

In the past twenty-six years, TFVA has given awards to 240 artists, visual arts organizations and those engaged in the visual arts in the GTA.

The Achievements of Father Donovan

Father Daniel Donovan (b. 1937) is by profession a Catholic priest and professor, now emeritus, in the Faculty of Theology at the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto.

Father Donovan’s interest in art was sparked during the mid-1960s when his graduate theological education took him to Rome and Münster, affording him the opportunity to visit many of the great museums of Western Europe. Returning to Canada in 1967, he brought home two 1957 woodcuts by Jakob Steinhardt, which continue to inform Father Donovan’s approach to art. As his interest and knowledge of art expanded with visits to Europe, New York and other major American cities, by 1981 he began to collect art in a serious way, initially with the purchase and donation to St. Michael’s of an important Kosso Eloul sculpture, Zen West, which sits on campus property. He reasoned that buying art and making it available for others to enjoy was something worthwhile and not an unreasonable way to spend the money that he was being paid as a professor at St. Michael’s.

He soon directed his interest to contemporary Canadian art and art in Toronto. So began a practice that continued for over 40 years of spending Saturday afternoons visiting Toronto’s many and varied art galleries, meeting many artists and gallerists and acquiring a growing collection of works in which he found the spiritual or religious in the broadest sense.

Over the years, Father Donovan has assembled a collection of over 400 works of art, almost exclusively by Canadian contemporary artists. Some acquisitions were influenced by students accompanying him on gallery visits, and some on his desire to support emerging artists. Among some 200 artists represented in the collection are works by Meryl McMaster, Robert Mapplethorpe, Angela Grauerholtz, Barbara Steinman and Denyse Thomasos. The donated works now hang in buildings throughout St. Michael’s campus, including the John M. Kelly Library classroom buildings and student residences.

Since initial installation in Odette Hall in 1997, thousands of visitors and students have come to see the collection. Over the years, Father Donovan has conducted many tours of the collection, including TFVA. In recent years, UofT has formed a committee to continue supporting the Donovan Collection.

As Father Donovan has remarked: “It is a striking thing about our culture that we have traditionally put such an emphasis on reading and writing and on literature in our educational practice and have largely taken the visual arts for granted. That may be why so few people are open to engage with contemporary art.” For nearly 60 years, Father Donovan has shown us how to engage with contemporary art, and the TFVA is thrilled to celebrate this wonderful supporter of the arts.

Learn more about the Donovan Collection

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Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts
Contact: Barbara Lemaire,
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