Gallery Guide Brittney Sproule lives and breathes culture. Originally from Saskatoon, she moved to Toronto three years ago to pursue a graduate degree in Museum Studies at the University of Toronto. She has volunteered at the AGO for nearly two years and works for the City of Toronto Museums & Heritage Services as a Museum Collections Assistant.
AGO: Is your job as cool as it sounds?
Brittney: It is! I’ve been working at one of the City’s collections facilities since July…we have everything from teacups to muskets stored there, all in safekeeping of course.
AGO: Why did you apply to volunteer with the AGO?
Brittney: I had volunteered as a docent at the Bata Shoe Museum and wanted to take the valuable experience I gained and further develop my skills. I don’t have a formal art history background, so this was also a great way to get a free art education.
AGO: What’s your favourite work in the Gallery?
Brittney: On the top of my list is the The Expulsion of the Money-Changers oil painting by the Master of the Kress Epiphany (found in Gallery 121, the E.R. Wood Gallery). I can’t help but giggle at the medieval man-babies every time I walk by it, and I always notice some new oddity in the scene. It’s a fun piece for tours as it sparks interesting discussions around the difference between medieval and renaissance painting styles.
AGO: If you could visit with any artist in history, who would it be?
Brittney: I wouldn’t say no to a chat with Leonardo da Vinci. I find his paintings so captivating and otherworldly (those eyes!), and I love that he was just as much a scientist/inventor as he was an artist. It would be fascinating to meet with someone like him whose work was so deeply influenced by both of these fields.
AGO: What about a living artist?
Brittney: I think I’d really enjoy talking to Frank Stella. His philosophy “What you see is what you see” in approaching his own works has always really stuck with me. Instead of feeling like I just ‘don’t get’ the deeper message an artist is trying to convey, particularly in more abstract works, I stop and think, ‘Okay, what do I see and how does it make me feel?’ rather than ‘What is this supposed to be and what am I supposed to feel?’
AGO: When you’re not volunteering at the AGO, what do you get up to?
Brittney: I love checking out other cultural events in the city: exhibitions at galleries, food festivals or craft markets. I also firmly believe that we are living in a golden age of quality television, so I am a shameless Netflix binge-watcher.
AGO: What’s one interesting thing about volunteering here?
Brittney: People are often surprised to hear that you don’t necessarily need a formal art history background to be a Gallery Guide. I’m living proof! While it definitely never hurts to have existing knowledge of art history, as long as you have an open mind and an interest in learning about art in all its historical and contemporary shapes and sizes, you’re well on your way.
AGO: Would you recommend volunteering at the AGO to a friend?
Brittney: Yes, and I have! One of the most rewarding things about being a Gallery Guide is meeting so many other amazing volunteers from all kinds of backgrounds. We learn just as much from each other as we do from our own research.
AGO: What is something people might not know about you?
Brittney: I have an undergraduate degree in Music and Classical Medieval Renaissance Studies, and I formally studied piano for 13 years. I’m trying to find an apartment-friendly piano so I can continue playing for fun.
AGO: Volunteering is____.
Brittney: Something I always look forward to every second Saturday!
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