History of the Williams Legacy

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Godfrey Stephens, Michael Williams

About Michael C. Williams

"We have in this city of ours a unique place, a living heritage that takes pride in the past, celebrates the present, and looks confidently to the future. Like every heritage it is a trust, something we have for a short while, to be passed on to a new generation."
- Michael C. Williams

The Legacy Art Gallery was made possible by the generosity of local benefactor Michael C. Williams, whose collection of contemporary art left to the University of Victoria after his death in 2000 forms the heart of the gallery. His extensive bequest consists of more than 1,000 paintings, sculptures, and antiques.

Williams was among several business owners to participate in the rejuvenation of Old Town in the 1970s and 80s, renovating more than a dozen heritage properties, including the current home of the Legacy Gallery, built in 1950 as the Bank of Toronto. His urban renewal projects aimed to preserve, protect, and enhance historical buildings, bringing out their true character.

As a strong believer in the value of art, Williams also generously supported numerous emerging local artists. He also befriended many of Victoria's homeless people, offering his support to downtown shelters and organizations.

Williams' vision included the establishment of a space devoted to the work of contemporary Victoria artists - a place where the art on the walls provokes discussion, and people can meet to discuss their views. Since its opening in 2007 the Legacy has become just that - a gallery and meeting place.

The Michael C. Williams Collection

The collection comprises 1,101 art items, including contemporary west coast art, contemporary and historic aboriginal art, and antiques.

Contemporary Art

838 contemporary art items (two items previously donated) from 146 artists. Major works by Myfanwy Pavelic and Jack Shadbolt. Definitive institutional collection of Maxwell Bates (28 items), Richard Ciccimarra (11), and James Gordaneer (31). Seven works by Edith Hembroff Shleicher (friend and biographer of Emily Carr).

Contemporary Northwest Coast Aboriginal Art

46 contemporary Northwest Coast aboriginal items from 15 artists. 16 paintings and prints by Robert Davidson. Medium to large sculptures including house post by Roy Vickers, etched glass and granite sculpture by Susan Point, double bronze killer whale (artist proof piece) by Davidson. Complements UVic’s extensive Northwest Coast contemporary print collection.

Historic Northwest Coast Aboriginal Art

46 historic Northwest Coast aboriginal items (13 previously donated).  Nine large 19th century bentwood boxes, two stone mortar and pestles (circa 1700), collection of rattles, and Tlingit copper. 

Antiques

162 items or item sets ranging from an 85-piece set of English copper and brass utensils and a long clock (circa 1750), to a sterling silver flatware set for 12 place-settings.

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