Skip to Content

Art Gallery of Ontario

Keyword Site Search

Art Matters Blog

Work in Progress: Interpretive planning in At Work

July 2nd, 2010

Kendra Ainsworth is a Masters candidate in Museum Studies at the University of Toronto, and is an Interpretive Planning intern at the AGO.

The work on At Work continues! The research phase is over (the amount of time I have spent in the AGO library is truly alarming), and now we move on to the planning stages. This entails many, many meetings, brainstorming sessions, and flow charts (basically I get to channel my inner kindergartener and use brightly coloured markers and flip-chart paper). The curators, interpretive planners, and myself, the illustrious Interpretive Planning Intern, do all of this to figure out how we can make At Work the most engaging and interesting exhibit it can be.

You may well ask – what on earth is interpretive planning? This is not a silly question; a year ago I couldn’t have told you either, and now I am looking to make it a career! Interpretive planners basically act as liaison between gallery visitors and curators. We map out how to best present the art, which the curators so carefully select, along with all of the incredible knowledge curators have, in a way that makes you, the visitor, excited to see and know more.

Doing this involves asking questions: What do visitors already know about a particular artist, style or subject? What information do we want to present in the exhibition? And, most importantly, how can we help you have a satisfying experience in the gallery and be as captivated and excited by the art as we are? Many of these questions are answered by you, our visitors. On a visit, you may have seen staff members, or interns like me, standing in galleries. Perhaps we pestered you with questions, hoping to hear your feedback. We’re always curious to hear what you like, what you don’t like, and what you think could be improved upon in our exhibits, and what you tell us, along with all this other information,  informs how we create and design upcoming shows.

I have had the opportunity to talk to a number of visitors in the past few weeks, and one of the things that many people really seemed to enjoy was hearing artists talk about their work in their own words. Video interviews or documentaries playing in the gallery allowed them to learn more about that artist’s background and inspirations. So, some of the things we are considering as we move forward in planning At Work are, do we use videos in the exhibit? If so, which ones, and where do we put them? How can we best provide information on the lives of Eva Hesse, Betty Goodwin and Agnes Martin so that you, the visitor, can have a fulfilling experience engaging with their art?

Some of our past in-gallery videos are posted on here on the Art Matters blog – you should check them out, and let us know what you think! Do you watch videos in museums and art galleries? What are you interested in finding out about artists and their work? What helps you better engage in the process of interpretation that you as a visitor undertake when you visit an art gallery? I really want to know!

To give you an idea of some of the art that will be featured in this show, here is a video clip of curator Briony Fer discussing the studiowork of Eva Hesse, at the Fruitmarket gallery in Edinburgh, where these pieces are coming to us from.

  • Screensceal


    Thought you might like to have a look at this documentary examining the relationship between a gallery attendant and his favourite work in the gallery.


  • Kendra

    Thanks for sharing that Screensceal. It reminds me of the documentary “The Hermitage Dwellers,” which tells the stories of staff at the famous Russian museum, and their connections to the art.