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Connecting mental health patients through art

November 24th, 2015


Did you know that the AGO offers a free program for mental health clients and professionals? We believe the Gallery can be a unique space for psychological engagement and well-being—one where people can feel safe and comfortable visiting regularly.

That’s why we developed a variety of meaningful, participant-centred tours aimed at engaging and familiarizing mental health clients with the AGO. The program, Accessibility for Mental Health Organizations (AMHO), also provides training and support for healthcare practitioners so they can facilitate visits for their own clients.

Since 2010, more than 2,500 clients and their mental health care workers have visited the AGO for Education Officer-led tours, enjoying our facilitated and curated discussions, and the chance to engage with art in a comfortable environment. Here’s what they’re saying:

“[The tour] was a really inspiring evening for our group (some of whom had never had an opportunity to visit the AGO before), both because of the aesthetic pleasure of being in the gallery, and because of the opportunity to really explore some of the artworks from the perspective of mental health. I’m so glad that this program will be continuing, and very grateful that we were able to participate.” —Reesa Grushka, Disabilities Counsellor/Educator, York University

“The chemistry between the Gallery and the Hospital was extraordinary. I wanted us to create a safe-enough space to allow these women—some of whom had never been to an art gallery before—to feel they belonged. I had no idea how successful the project would be. More than one of our participants reported that the group made the difference between a lifetime of suicidal feelings, and feeling OK about herself. You don’t often hear that after 12 weeks of regular talk therapy.” — Eva-Marie Stern, Art Psychotherapist, WRAP & Trauma Therapy Program, Women’s College Hospital

“These outings are so valuable to me and have made me a better therapist because I’ve learned new ways to open discussions with my clients and see different sides of their personalities. These monthly visits have become so vital to our programming.” — Wendy, Recreational Therapist, Bellwood Health Services Inc.


If you would like to participate or know someone who would benefit from this experience, please contact Melissa Smith by emailing or by phoning 416.979.6660 ext. 268. AMHO offers:

Facilitated tours: organizations may book free hour-long tours led by AGO Education Officers who are trained to facilitate visitor-centred discussions in the Gallery. Mental health care workers accompany their group. The content can be custom developed collaboratively with staff and clients. The range of topics is vast including such topics as: hardship and resilience; body language; love; Canadian identity, etc.

Community memberships: each organization can receive four AGO family memberships to loan to group members for visits on their own or with friends and family.

Ai Weiwei: Toronto LEGO Collection Point

October 30th, 2015

Donate #legosforweiwei and support free speech.

Dropoff location: Southwest corner of Dundas St. W. and McCaul St., near Henry Moore’s Large Two Forms sculpture

On October 23, celebrated Chinese artist Ai Weiwei posted on Instagram: “In September Lego refused Ai Weiwei Studio’s request for a bulk order of Legos to create artwork to be shown at the National Gallery of Victoria as ‘they cannot approve the use of Legos for political works.'”

Ai’s post triggered a flood of responses on social media criticizing Lego for “censorship and discrimination,” and thousands of anonymous supporters offered to donate their used Legos to the artist. In response to the overwhelming inquiries, Ai is using his global influence to invite each of us to consider the implications of corporate influence on an artists’ work. At his request, museums around the world are taking a stand in support of free expression, collecting donated Lego bricks to help Ai create a new work—and the Art Gallery of Ontario is the first #legosforweiwei collection point in Canada. In the fall of 2013 the AGO hosted Ai Weiwei: According to What?, an exhibition that asked our visitors to consider what it means to speak freely without penalty. The AGO is proud to support Ai again and will always vigorously defend artists’ rights to express themselves.

Want to pitch in? Donate your Lego bricks through the sunroof of the BMW car parked in front of the AGO, at the southwest corner of Dundas St. W. and McCaul St.; the sunroof will be open seven days a week from 7:30am–6pm (with extended hours on Wednesday and Friday: 7:30am–9pm). A donation bin is also available in the AGO lobby.

Or, send donations by mail to:
c/o Art Gallery of Ontario
317 Dundas Street West
Toronto, ON
M5T 1G4

Share your thoughts on social by tagging @agotoronto @aiww #legosforweiwei.

What we picked up at Art Toronto 2015: Five new Canadian artworks

October 26th, 2015

This past weekend, we acquired five works by four Canadian artists, including Michael Dumontier, Luis Jacob, Seth and Jacob Whibley. The purchases were made possible by funds raised at Art Toronto‘s Opening Night Preview — which supports these acquisitions as well as our ongoing programs — with assistance from the Peggy Lownsbrough Fund, and dedicated funds for Canadian and contemporary art acquisitions.

Read the full press release here.

Call for Applications – Song Dong’s Communal Courtyard: Community Residencies Program

October 23rd, 2015

Song Dong Communal Courtyard 2013 Installation view, The Margulies Collection

Song Dong’s The Wisdom of the Poor: Communal Courtyard, 2011–2013, Gift of Martin Z. Margulies Foundation. As installed at the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse.

Call for Applications: An Opportunity for Toronto-based Artists, Collectives and Culture Groups

Are you or do you know a Toronto-based performance-based artist, collective and/or culture group? If yes, we have an opportunity to share.

The AGO is pleased to announce that Chinese sculptor and multimedia artist Song Dong will make his Toronto debut with the newly acquired installation Communal Courtyard. Made from over 100 reclaimed wardrobe doors, this immersive installation calls attention to the loss of architectural history as we modernize our cities and examines its impact across China and beyond. This major exhibition is coordinated by the AGO’s chief curator Stephanie Smith, and runs from Jan. 30, 2016 to July 17, 2016.

To extend the conversation beyond the Gallery’s walls, the AGO is launching an innovative community residency program in conjunction with the exhibition. We invite community partners, artists, collectives and local organizations to apply for one of five interactive residencies. The program, which will present projects that engage and respond to Song’s work, will support five residencies, with each residency running for three weeks. Successful applicants will be animating Song Dong’s Communal Courtyard through a range of artistic responses, which may include music, dance, spoken word, theatre and performance art.

Each resident artist or collective will be asked to program presentations in the exhibition space for three weeks: on Wednesday evenings; Thursday afternoons; Fridays evenings; and Saturday afternoons for a total of 12 activations or performances. The presentations should be geared for intimate audiences of approximately 30 people.

Selected artists will have the opportunity to meet with Song Dong the week of January 25, 2016 to workshop their proposals and gain valuable feedback from the artist and the AGO’s exhibition project team. An honorarium of $2,500 to support production and expenses will be provided for each successful proposal. Residencies will take place between March 30 and July 16, 2016.

For more information on the exhibition, click here.

Who can apply?
Artists, artist groups and/or collectives, non-profit arts organizations based in the GTA.

What do I submit?
Applications must include:
• A proposal outlining your work and practice in general and how you would propose to engage the space (maximum one page)
• Your CV or the mission of your organization (maximum two pages)
• Up to 15 images and/or 10 minutes of video documentation with detailed credit information (title, date, medium, dimensions).
Applications to the program are due on Friday November 27, 2015.

How do I submit an application?
Please submit your application via e-mail to Linda Lee, Program Assistant, Adult Learning & Special Projects at and include:
• Your statement and CV in .pdf format
• A link to your video documentation (via Vimeo or YouTube) and/or your .jpeg support material (via DropBox). PLEASE DO NOT SUBMIT ATTACHMENTS.
• Please note your top 3 preferred residency dates:
March 30 – April 23 (no performances April 13–16)
April 27 – May 14
May 18-June 4
June 8 – 25
June 29 – July 16
• Lead Contact name, address, and official name of recipient of funds

How many performances/activations will I be responsible to create?
• 12 performances over 3 weeks:
Wednesdays, 6–8pm
Thursdays, 2–4pm
Fridays, 6–8pm
Saturdays 2–4pm

What is the honorarium?
• $2,500 inclusive of any materials and artist fees.

What other support do I receive?
• On-site coordination and marketing through AGO’s promotional vehicles
• An opportunity to meet with artist Song Dong and members of the AGO’s exhibitions, curatorial and public programming departments to workshop proposal.

When do I find out if I am successful?
• On or before December 15, 2015

For more information:
• Contact Linda Lee, Program Assistant, Adult Learning & Special Projects at

Twitter Round Up

April 24th, 2012

This morning we had a fantastic turn out for our press preview for Picasso – Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris. Members of all media types were on site for a sneak-peak of what is sure to be one of the most talked about exhibitions at the Gallery this year.  We’d love to thank all those who came out and a special thanks to our devoted twitter followers who had a lot of really fantastic things to say about the exhibit.

Here’s a snap shot of some of our favourites from this mornings press preview:

We can’t wait to keep the conversation going online.  If you are on Twitter join the conversation with #PabloTO and we are also posting lots on both our blog and on  Facebook. So stay tuned and we look forward to hearing what you think!

Liveblogging: Press Preview for Picasso – Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris

April 24th, 2012

 On May 1st, 2012 the Art Gallery of Ontario is proud to present Picasso – Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris. On April 24th,  we invited members of the press, sponsors and key industry leaders to attend our Press Preview in Baillie Court.  The following is a live blog account of the press preview inclusive of remarks from the AGO leadership team and other special guests. A full podcast of this session will be available on the AGO website within a few days time.  We hope you enjoy following along at home / work. Amanda Lynne, interim Internet & Social Media Content Coordinator

The Press Preview is due to begin at 10.15am.

10:09am Baillie Court is filling up. It’s going to be a packed house – over 80 media outlets have registered to be a part of this mornings preview!

10:20am: MT takes the stage. 147 works, please take the adventure with me.

10:22am: Ms. Ristich welcomes us and provides insight into the partnership between AGO and BMO. We are proud and privileged for this opportunity.

10:26am: Anne, curator from the Musee National Picasso, takes the stage to welcome the crowd and exhibit to the AGO.

MT has 1 question to ask Anne: What makes Picasso so interesting today? While Anne has yet to answer, we’d love to ask you what your thoughts are.

10:30 MT – We are excited to announce a Paella night at Frank, a free audio kids tour for those who come with adults and a new Cafe Italia on the 2nd floor.

10:33 MT opens the Gallery for media.

When you are this big – they call you MASSIVE.

April 19th, 2012

One of the city’s hottest events this year, tonight’s Massive Party is sure to be a huge success.  Every year since 2004 we’ve filled the AGO with close to 1800 of Toronto’s most chic art lovers for a night of installations, dancing, DJs, food, prizes, surprises and more.  As you prep for this un-missable event, we have a few pro tips to making tonight the party you’ll still be talking about at New Year’s.

Explore – There’s so much more to Massive Party than the dance party in Baillie Court. With installations in almost every major space, we encourage you to explore the Gallery as it is transformed by guest artists taking on the challenge of creating their ideas of the future of art. From the Weston Family Learning Centre to Granovsky Gluskin Hall, see the Gallery as you will never see it again.

Don’t leave home without it – And by it, we mean some extra cash. With an open bar and pre-paid tickets, you might not think to put a couple extra bucks in your back pocket, but think again. Local artists An Te Liu and Jade Rude have created limited edition, Massive Party-inspired pieces for you to take home with you.  Insider scoop: items are no more than $40 each.

#thefutureoffashionis – We want you to dress for success the future.  While Artistic Director Bruno Billio envisions gold, silver, bright colours and big hats we merely suggest these as a starting point for your attire.  Nothing is off limits when you put your mind to it, so go big, go wild, go fancy and come as the best dressed “future you” you can imagine.

Be Prepared – Like any good boy scout, we want you to be prepared to have the night of your life. You’ll be mixing and mingling with some of the city’s finest artists and arts lovers so expect the unexpected and get ready to see the AGO transform into a once in a life time experience.  As we want you to have the best time possible, please be prepared to get home safe and please drink responsibly.

So now you are ready, just like the pros. Remember to follow our hashtag #thefutureofartis for updates, contests and more! We look forward to seeing you tonight!


April 18th, 2012

The AGO is continually redefining its space as it relates to the artists and the needs of the Gallery.  In the last while we have seen some major transformations of our physical and digital spaces – some temporary, some permanent.  The following is part one of a four-part blog series in which we examine the ideas of transformation, change and development here at the AGO.

The physical. Or, Going beyond feng shui…

From small intimate spaces to open concept exhibitions, the physical space around us changes the way we view and interact with art garnering multiple opportunities to create unique experiences for our visitors.  With this understanding, we at the AGO continually attempt to challenge and redefine these experiences.

On April 14, we were proud to open an exciting new gallery space with the expansion and relocation of the David Milne Centre, inviting our guests to engage with the work of one of Canada’s most celebrated artists. An innovative first for the Gallery, we have combined art with archives and technology, and are challenging our guests to get interactive with our research tools.

The gallery has created 20 short films specifically for the Centre. Visitors are encouraged to sit back, relax on couches and explore the films on overhead projections. Profiling the places Milne loved and painted, as well his personal history, these films provide a guided tour through Milne’s private world.  Spanning two floors, and covering an impressive 1,180 sq. ft., the centre is designed to bridge the interior and exterior spaces of the Gallery with its expansive windows. The airy, light-filled space pays homage to David Milne’s passion for nature and preference to work in isolation.

Come check out the space at our “Finding David Milne: New AGO Milne Centre and Archive” event on April 25th, at 7pm. For more information please visit our site .

A New Face.

April 17th, 2012

With all that’s going on at the AGO, we always love to take a moment to keep our fans and friends in the know about changes that happen behind the scenes.

Holly Knowlman, our in-house Social Media superstar will be away for the next while, and in her temporary absence we have brought on Amanda Lynne Ballard to be the overseer of all things social.

Amanda Lynne has an extensive history in working with local and national arts organizations in the social space, and we are excited to bring her on board until Holly’s return. You can catch her doing her thing on our Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, this blog, and also at some of our fantastic up-coming events.

With so much happening in the next while, we are excited to be keeping very active in the social space and invite all AGO fans to join in on our ongoing conversations.  On behalf of everyone at the AGO we would like to welcome Amanda Lynne to the team!

AGO Conservator on Betty Goodwin’s Tarpaulin #8 (Audio)

February 9th, 2012

Betty Goodwin (Canadian) 2009,  Tarpaulin # 8, 1976.

Betty Goodwin (Canadian) 2009, Tarpaulin # 8, 1976. Tarpaulin, rope and wire. 322.6 x 261.6 cm. © 2012 Art Gallery of Ontario

Click to play:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download 1.52MB MP3

Duration: 00:02:13

Listen to AGO conservator, Sherry Phillips, talk about Betty Goodwin’s Tarpaulin # 8.


American Express is the Signature Partner of the Conservation Collection Program