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Our New Look

The Story Behind Our New Look

A Little Bit About Us

The Varley Art Gallery of Markham is named after Frederick Horsman Varley (b. 1881), an original member of Canada’s famed Group of Seven, who lived in Unionville from 1957 until he passed away in 1969. The Gallery opened in 1997 with a founding collection donated by Kathleen Gormley McKay. From the beginning, through research, exhibitions, public programs and publications, the Gallery has explored the art of F.H. Varley and his contemporaries who shaped the practice of art in Canada. We aim to inspire local and national audiences to engage with art both historical and contemporary.

Learn more about the history of the Gallery.

How Far We’ve Come

Over the past 20 years, the Varley has gone from strength to strength. In addition to its mounting high profile and critically-acclaimed exhibitions that have toured nationally and internationally, we also added a new wing to the Gallery in 2012. As a result, we were able to expand our activity space and ensure that works by F.H. Varley are always available to the public in the new Collections Gallery year-round. The Varley has also attracted numerous donations over the years and our collections have grown exponentially to hold more than 500 works of art. And we now see 50,000+ visitors a year, from the art connoisseur to those experiencing it for the very first time!

Through outstanding exhibitions, workshops, art camps and curriculum-based educational learning, we attract visitors from across Markham, York Region, the Greater Toronto Area and Southern Ontario. Varley programs such as PechaKucha Markham nights, Art Socials, Lunch & Learns, and Gallery Gabs animate our exhibitions, support community initiatives and reach diverse demographics and age groups. We are not only a repository of historical art. We are a dynamic cultural hub and a safe and inclusive space for everyone – regardless of age, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, colour, or national origin.

Varley Art Gallery of Markham Staff Group Photo

A Sneak Peek at Our New Look

We are very pleased that our efforts towards creating a cultural hub for Markham has been such a success. We launched several new popular community events that connect with the community, and build thriving partnerships with local businesses and non-profit initiatives. We knew it was time to update our look to reflect who we are, what we do and our aspirations for the Varley. We worked with the award-winning Underline Studio to create an identity that embodies the spirit of the Gallery and the community it serves. The result is an identity and logo that expresses the visual art, contemporary, entrepreneurial and design-driven personality of the Varley. Paired with a distinctive graphic system, our logo acts as a defining principle for our brand. Brand here means all of: presence, recognition, a perceived image, an emotional response and visual identity.

Varley Art Gallery of Markham logo

The dynamic diagonals are not just aspects of our logo. They are flexible brand elements that represent our drive to push boundaries and inspire creativity. They emphasize continuous movement and the ambition to search. They express our responsiveness, our outward focus, our engagement with and vibrant links to the communities that surround us.

Our Favourite Colour

If you have been with us from the start, you will immediately recognize a link between our new look and the Gallery’s original brand colour. What we call “the Varley purple” is completely inspired by our namesake, F.H. Varley and his palette, which is characterized by the frequent use of purple, lavender and violet hues. Our new brand colour is thus completely rooted in the artist’s work and the Gallery’s history, but also propels us forward into a dynamic and vibrant future for the Gallery.

Frederick Horsman Varley (1881-1969) Mountain Road, Lynn Valley c. 1932-36

Frederick Horsman Varley (1881-1969) Mist and Mountains, Lynn Valley c.1935
  Frederick Horsman Varley (1881-1969) Arctic Scene, 1938

Frederick Horsman Varley (1881-1969)
Mountain Road, Lynn Valley
Oil on canvas, 30.5 x 38.0 cm
Collection of the Varley Art Gallery of Markham, 1996.1.87

Gift of the Estate of Kathleen Gormley McKay, 1996


Frederick Horsman Varley (1881-1969)
Mist and Mountains, Lynn Valley
Oil on canvas, 39.7 x 50.6 cm Collection of the Varley Art Gallery of Markham, 1999.1.1

Gift of Peter Garstang, 1999


Frederick Horsman Varley (1881-1969)
Arctic Scene, 1938
Oil on panel, 30.0 x 38.0 cm
Collection of the Varley Art Gallery of Markham, 1996.1.91

Gift of the Estate of Kathleen Gormley McKay, 1996

Our Nickname

The Gallery’s official name is “The Frederick Horsman Varley Art Gallery of Markham,” which we know is a mouthful! In formal situations we call ourselves the “Varley Art Gallery of Markham.” Yet we’ve also noticed a series of nicknames for the Gallery that have been coined over time by our visitors. One in particular really sticks is “The Varley.” We like that you feel comfortable enough to call us by our nickname. Here at the Varley, we are not just cultural ambassadors, but also your neighbours and most importantly, your friends.

Keep an eye out for the official launch of our new look. Our makeover is expected to be complete by January 2018!