Skip to Content

Art Gallery of Ontario

Keyword Site Search

Art Matters Blog

Infinite storytelling

May 7th, 2018

Samiya and Sumaiys Jahan pose in Yayoi Kusama's Obliteration Room

Kusama volunteer animateurs and twins Samiya and Sumaiya Jahan

For Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors, AGO interpretive planners Shiralee Hudson Hill and Nadia Abraham came up with a fun and engaging way for visitors to learn more while inside the exhibition. Volunteer animateurs were recruited to share details and stories about Kusama’s fascinating life and work.

“From both research and the success of our Gallery Guide program, we know one of the most effective ways of engaging museum visitors is through conversation,” said Shiralee Hudson Hill, the AGO’s Lead Interpretive Planner. “In Infinity Mirrors, the volunteer animateurs are a great way to support and enhance visitors’ experience.”

The AGO recruited over 100 volunteers to take on this role in Infinity Mirrors. “It’s an amazing group of diverse individuals, of all ages, from all across the GTA,” Hudson Hill says. “It’s been a fantastic way to reach out and further engage the Toronto community in this compelling exhibition.”

We caught up with four animateurs to learn more about why they were interested in volunteering and their favourite Kusama stories to share with visitors. The volunteer animateur program was generously supported by Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors Lead Sponsor RBC.

Su-Min Alliu poses inside Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror exhibition

Kusama Animateur Su-Ming Alliu

“I’m a stay-at-home mom and artisan. I enjoy talking to audiences about the connections between Kusama’s personal life stories, struggles, and her work. I especially like interacting with the kindergarten classes that visit the exhibition. They are innocent and free of preconceived ideas, revealling unexpected and interesting insights about the Infinity Mirror Rooms. I also love to see the enthusiasm that high school kids have for placing dots in the Obliteration Room, the excitement they feel at being able to participate is palpable.” – Su-Ming Alliu

Kathleen Lew poses inside the Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors exhibition

Kusama Animateur Kathleen Lew

“I’m doing a master’s degree in Museum Studies at the University of Toronto, and being able to volunteer inside the exhibition has been really interesting. My favourite story to tell visitors is about Kusama’s relationship to Georgia O’Keeffe. As a young artist in Japan, Kusama wrote to O’Keeffe seeking advice on how to make it as an artist in America. O’Keeffe wrote back! Most visitors haven’t heard this before. Kusama’s such an interesting figure. I think having volunteers in the exhibition adds a really nice human element to the experience.”
– Kathleen Lew

volunteers Sumaiya and Samiya Jahan pose inside Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror exhibition

Kusama Animateurs (and twins!) Sumaiya and Samiya Jahan

“I love talking to people about Aftermath of Obliteration. It’s one of the Infinity Mirror Rooms where people get lost in the art. The story behind the work – how it speaks to the trauma of Hiroshima and the poetry of guiding souls – really resonates with visitors.” – Sumaiya Jahan

“Most visitors really appreciate hearing more about the exhibition. People are very interested in details about the artist – her life and her age. No one can believe she’s been making art for over seven decades. And a lot of people really want to know where they can get our T-shirts!” – Samiya Jahan

Meet the volunteers in person at Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors. The exhibition will stay open until midnight during the last two weekends in May so even more art fans can see this exciting show.

Are you an AGOinsider yet? If not, sign up to have stories like these delivered straight to your inbox every week.

Comments are closed.