At the AGO, we work with many fantastic hardworking volunteers who are devoted to engaging visitors in all aspects of our museum. Last month we introduced you to a volunteer who has been with us for a decade. This week we toast Mary Henderson’s 50 years as an AGO Volunteer.
We chatted with Mary to find out more about her history at the AGO, what she enjoys most about volunteering and which artist is currently her favourite.
AGO: What made you decide to volunteer at the AGO?
Mary: I was invited to volunteer at the AGO by two friends who were already volunteering – Marni Wigle and Meredith Saunderson. It was a perfect way to spend a bit of time away from a young family.
AGO: What volunteer roles have you held over the years?
Mary: I began in the 1960s as a member of the Junior Committee. Our goal was to bring people into the Gallery, so we served home-cooked lunches in Walker Court to encourage people to visit during the day.
Later, I volunteered in the art rental exhibition space, which was really the beginning of my art education. I worked with the late, long-time volunteer Carol Sprachman. We selected works by many of Canada’s well-known artists from commercial dealers, and installed them with the help of the Gallery’s installation team. We held a ceramics exhibit and a photography exhibit close to the time that the AGO purchased its first photograph (1977).
AGO: How did you begin in your current role as a Gallery Guide?
Mary: In 1979, the Gallery introduced volunteer docents to guide the public. I was asked to be one and of course said, “Yes!” David Wistow was our first mentor, and I’m the only one still serving as a Gallery Guide from that group.
AGO: What do you enjoy most about being a Gallery Guide?
Mary: Meeting the public is so interesting. Visitors to the museum are so diverse and from so many parts of the world. I love to see the looks on people’s faces as they enter Galleria Italia and enjoy how much the Henry Moore Sculpture Centre amazes people.
I also really look forward to meeting with the other Gallery Guides each week. We discuss what’s new over lunch and help each other out in the galleries.
AGO: Do you have a favourite work of art in the collection?
Mary: I’m fickle about favourites. Right now I’m caught up with Michael Snow’s Walking Woman and Atlantic. His intellect is so amazing.
AGO: What’s your favourite exhibition from your time at the Gallery?
Mary: My favourite show was The European Iceberg: Creativity in Germany and Italy Today. [Featuring design, architecture, fashion, painting and sculpture, the show was an introduction to neo-expressionist art coming out of Western Europe in the 1970s and ’80s.] The show opened us up to the world. It used the entire Gallery during its two-month run in 1985, and so many people were involved in producing it. The AGO purchased some of those works, so we now have an excellent collection of that post-war era.
AGO: How do you feel volunteers contribute to the AGO’s success?
Mary: Volunteers are a passionate group – we love the Gallery and the Collection. Our friendly, open style is welcoming to anyone coming to visit. We take our volunteer positions seriously and spend time getting to know what’s happening here each week.
Congratulations Mary for volunteering for 50 years at the Gallery! The AGO couldn’t do what we do without our amazing volunteers.
Interested in volunteering at the AGO? Keep an eye on the AGO website for volunteer opportunities!