Skip to Content

Art Gallery of Ontario

Keyword Site Search

Art Matters Blog

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 in good weather during our regular hours of operation. (In bad weather, there will be a donation bin 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

Art meets beer at FRANK

October 21st, 2015


Turner-Inspired British Eats is the theme of a beer tasting at FRANK on Tuesday, Oct. 27 at 6:30 p.m. Using British terminology and inspiration, and timed to coincide with the opening of the AGO’s major fall exhibition J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free, the menu has been created to pair with beers from Collective Arts Brewing.

A fairly new addition to the local brewery scene, Collective Arts Brewing is a grassroots beer company that is as deeply committed to producing craft beer as it is to supporting the arts. Matt Johnston and Bob Russell founded the company in 2013 based on two core beliefs: creativity fosters creativity and creativity yields delicious pints.

Each bottle of beer is considered to be a work of art — not just for the thirst-quenching brews found inside, but also for the limited-edition works of art by artists and musicians found on the outside. The AGO’s own Andrew Hunter, Fredrik S. Eaton Curator, Canadian Art has been featured as a curator for the artist series on the labelling.

For the full menu and to reserve a seat, click here.

Check out the Collective Arts story below:

Mining the AGO’s collections for an artist book

August 5th, 2015

By Meera Margaret Singh

Photos by Meera Margaret Singh (far right and far left) installed in the Richard Barry Fudger Memorial Gallery.

Photos by Meera Margaret Singh (far right and far left) installed in the Richard Barry Fudger Memorial Gallery.

The experience of working at the AGO as the artist-in–residence for summer 2015 has been an extremely productive and rewarding venture. After having organized several interventions in the form of free participatory Laughter Yoga workshops in both Walker Court and Galleria Italia (filling space typically reserved for quiet contemplation with the powerful sound of a collective laughing) and then installing two photographs from my series of female body builders into the European Collection (located in the Fudger Gallery, pictured above), I’ve decided to add a third element to the residency: creating a small-edition artist book.

Being in the AGO, surrounded by an incredible collection of art, along with the insertion of my work into the gallery space has allowed me to think about the various forms of dialogue that can take shape between historic and the contemporary artists/artworks. I began several weeks ago to mine various collections (European, Canadian, African, Modern and Contemporary, Photography and Prints and Drawing) focusing on three main themes that echo my own life/work at present:

Women and strength (relating to my work with female body builders)…

Unknown, Reclining woman with floral motif design, date unknown. Art Gallery of Ontario. Gift of Carol and Morton Rapp, 1997.

Unknown, Reclining woman with floral motif design, date unknown. Art Gallery of Ontario. Gift of Carol and Morton Rapp, 1997.

Meera Margaret Singh, Gillia, 2015, chromogenic print.

Meera Margaret Singh, Gillia, 2015, chromogenic print.

…people being overcome by emotion (relating to my work with laughter yoga/yogis)…

Paul Peel, The Model (after Chaplin),  1890, oil on canvas. Art Gallery of Ontario. Bequest of John Paris Bickell, Toronto, 1952.

Paul Peel, The Model (after Chaplin), 1890, oil on canvas. Art Gallery of Ontario. Bequest of John Paris Bickell, Toronto, 1952.

Meera Margaret Singh, Gaby Laughing, c-print, 2008.

Meera Margaret Singh, Gaby Laughing, c-print, 2008.

…and mothers and children (relating to an ongoing series of work I’ve done with my own mother as well as my new role as mother)

American artist (unknown), Decorative plate with portrait of mother and daughter, c. 1902, collodion print., 24 x 25 cm. Art Gallery of Ontario. Anonymous gift, 2004.

American artist (unknown), Decorative plate with portrait of mother and daughter, c. 1902, collodion print., 24 x 25 cm. Art Gallery of Ontario. Anonymous gift, 2004.

Meera Margaret Singh, Mitosis, 2004, c-print.

Meera Margaret Singh, Mitosis, 2004, c-print.

Thanks to the invaluable help of Barbora Racevicuite, interning at the AGO for the summer, we have mined the AGO’s collection finding works that speak to these themes and further speak to me. Having selected numerous images, my goal is to create a small accordion style publication with my photographic works on one side and works from the AGO collection on the other side. The intention is to allow my contemporary works to create new, altered meaning when situated with historic works and vice versa. The culmination of this will echo the intent of the artist-in-residence program itself: To engage with the gallery itself along with its unique collection while “leading the way for experimentation and growth in the field of contemporary art practice.”

I’m very grateful for all of the help that the AGO and the artist-in-residence program have offered me in creating work and re-contextualizing work throughout my residency. Thank you so much!

Learn more about Singh’s AGO residency

Conservation Notes: Resurfacing Large Two Forms

July 30th, 2015

By Lisa Ellis, Conservator, Sculpture and Decorative Arts

Standing at the corner of McCaul and Dundas streets since 1974, Henry Moore’s monumental sculpture Large Two Forms has become an important part of Toronto’s cultural landscape. Scores of school children, families, local residents and out-of-town visitors enjoy sitting in the large void of the northern element, exploring and enjoying the surfaces and forms and now, perhaps more than ever, posing for photographs and selfies with the bronze giant.

Recently, the sculpture has begun to show its age. Those resting in the forms’ voids have inadvertently polished away the original textured surfaces. Pollution and moisture from the air have reacted with what was once a golden-brown surface, most notably on the top of the forms, turning it into a powdery light green corrosion layer. Worrisome stress cracks had opened up across welded joins and in the larger void where many visitors sat or stood for photos.

With generous funding and support from the Henry Moore Foundation, and after much planning and preparation, a small team of AGO staff members spent a month in the summer of 2015 addressing these issues.The treatment plan consisted of repairing stress cracks and attending to the appearance of the sculpture. Read the rest of this entry »

Conservation Notes: “I have seen my death!” and the very first X-ray

July 28th, 2015

By Katharine Whitman, Conservator, Photography

(photo at right) U.S. Military,  Operation Priscilla, taken at the moment of the shockwave, 1957.   / Camera Crew at Exact Moment of Shockwave Arrival, Nevada Test Site 1957. Gelatin silver print.

(photo at right) U.S. Military, Operation Priscilla, taken at the moment of the shockwave, 1957. / Camera Crew at Exact Moment of Shockwave Arrival, Nevada Test Site 1957. Gelatin silver print.

There’s something really amazing inside the AGO’s walls right now: a piece of medical history and the forerunner of technology used today. In our exhibition Camera Atomica, visitors can see a positive image of the first X-ray ever made. Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, a physics professor in Worzburg, Bavaria, created the gelatine silver glass plate image, what would become known as the first “röntgenogram.” It captures the hand of Röntgen’s wife, Anna Bertha, and her wedding ring (the large dark circle). When she saw the image she is said to have exclaimed, “I have seen my death!” Read the rest of this entry »

Turner Prize nominee Janice Kerbel is Elevated at the AGO

July 21st, 2015

Installation view: Janice Kerbel, Is Iggy Fatuse, The Human Firefly, from the series Remarkable, 2007

Installation view: Janice Kerbel, Is Iggy Fatuse, The Human Firefly, from the series Remarkable, 2007

In our exhibition Elevated, Janic Kerbel’s poster work Is Iggy Fatuse, The Human Firefly is impossible to miss: its large scale and bold typography draw visitors and, we’ve noticed, it makes frequent appearances in visitor photos (and the odd #museumselfie).

What visitors may not realize is that they’re standing in front of the work of an artist in the running for one of the world’s most prestigious art prizes: Kerbel is a nominee for the 2015 Turner Prize for her work DOUG (2014), an operatic performance commissioned by The Common Guild at Mitchell Library, Glasgow. We asked Kitty Scott, our curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, to comment on her relationship with Kerbel and her work. Read the rest of this entry »

This summer, it’s all in the #AGOdetails

July 15th, 2015

By Raechel Bonomo, AGO communications assistant

The AGO collection contains artworks that can fill entire gallery walls, and this summer they’re joined by works on loan for our current exhibition Picturing the Americas: Landscape Painting from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic, featuring dozens of panoramic landscapes. At first glance, details in these vast paintings are overshadowed by gargantuan falls and mountains. These hidden treasures are waiting to be discovered, and so we’ve been exploring works from our collection and the landscapes in Picturing the Americas, in search of some gems. We got up close and personal by zooming in on some works, and below you’ll find cropped images of their small-but-mighty details. In this post, it’s the little things that count. Read the rest of this entry »