In a quest to reinvent itself, the Art Gallery of Ontario—lovingly abbreviated as AGO—has adopted a creative approach to draw crowds: children, youth, middle-aged, and old. The kick-off Family Sunday event took place on Sunday, November 1 offering an exciting afternoon of art-filled activities for the entire family. This initiative will continue until April 24, 2016 on Sundays between 1-4 pm at the Weston Family Learning Centre, and is free with gallery admission.
Kids will receive newly-designed activity bags, and can also join a coloring contest to win prizes. The November 1 event showcased shadow puppetry which was hugely entertaining for children as they also got an opportunity to ask questions after the show wrapped up. Immediately after, family guided tours were offered free for all who cared to join a lively and richly informed tour guide who was especially a favourite with kids. She explained some art works like a painting with flowers whose two sides were symmetrical. She also challenged children to pose like sculptures while parents took pictures.
Some paintings were placed on walls in chronological order, depicting romantic themes and landscapes as seen through the eyes of early settlers. Gradually, the themes changed to human emotions and canvases were filled with scenes of home and fireplaces with tender portrayals of kids playing naked. By and by, themes took on a more serious tone of agriculture, farming and ways of eking out a livelihood. Canvases of war were aplenty, and abstract art was open to interpretation.
The art gallery’s collections boast of African and Oceanic art, Canadian and European art, modern and contemporary art, among others. The gallery’s Prints and Drawings collection spans the entire history of works on paper in the West from the 1400s to the present day, and intersects with all the other collecting areas. With more than 40,000 works, the art gallery’s photography collection is indeed spectacular.
There are many choices to dine; however, the Espresso Bar in Galleria Italia is the preferred hangout for first timers and frequent visitors alike. A light-filled wonder of wood and glass, this bar runs the entire length of the gallery’s second level and serves desserts and beverages. Guests can be seen soaking up the wondrous views from this pricey vantage point of the art gallery.
The gift shop featuring souvenirs, jewelry and a wide choice of collectibles is another feather in the hat of this creative haven in the heart of the pulsating city of Toronto. Unlike the general misconception that museums and art galleries are boring places housing mute paintings, the cultural mecca of the Art Gallery of Ontario is a rare gem that must be discovered and appreciated.
Vinita Kinra is a Toronto-based author, editor, speaker and activist, best known for her short story collection, Pavitra in Paris, launched to critical acclaim in 2013. She is also a contributor for India’s largest English daily, The Times of India.