March Break is coming fast, and in preparation for a full week of family fun, we’re welcoming our first family-focused Artists in Residence Natalie Ferguson and Toby Gillies. The AGO’s Artist-in-Residence program is the first of its kind at a Canadian art museum and is generously supported by the RBC Foundation’s Emerging Artists Project. From March 9 to 17, Natalie and Toby are taking over Walker Court with an immersive installation and family artmaking experience called Secret Ingredient, where kids and families can create playful, faux food sculptures of recipes both real and imagined.
We sat down with Natalie and Toby to learn more about Secret Ingredient and to see what they’re bringing to the table this March Break.
AGO: What can visitors at the AGO expect to see March Break?
Toby: There’ll be a huge banquet table set up under a chandelier in Walker Court. Families can make fun recreations of their favourite family meals. We’ll take their meals to a staged photography set that Natalie and I will run. Kids can then write how they think their parents make the meal and the parents can write out the recipe. The photo becomes a kind of family portrait. The table will eventually look like a big feast we all made together.
Natalie: We’ll keep adding and growing the feast all March Break long. And we welcome families to take a selfie with their meal at the banquet table.
AGO: How did you come up with the title Secret Ingredient?
Toby: Sharing recipes has always been part of my family’s tradition; I’m told my great grandmother would leave an ingredient out of the recipe so no one could make the dish quite as well as she did. That’s where the idea for the title came from, but for Natalie and me, the Secret Ingredient is the idea of sharing the experience of a meal with other people.
Natalie: The idea of wanting to make a meal for others is special in itself. I enjoy cooking for and with other people. It’s the idea of sharing with others that makes it special.
AGO: What other projects are you working on?
Toby: We both work for an organization called Art City in Winnipeg. We do all sorts of programming with all ages from across the city. Apart from that, I work in the community at a healthcare centre, where we do art programs with older adults. I’ve been doing this for almost ten years. Most of my practice revolves around making art with others, art parties, and experiments in drawing and animation.
Natalie: I’m a visual artist, and I have devoted most of the past five years to community art. In my personal practice, I enjoy installation art, set design, photography, sculpture and pottery. I’m more of a three-dimensional artist. I also sit as chair of the board for an organization called Art from the Heart.
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