AGW Beyond Bricks & Mortar
“We work with a very dedicated team of docents, studio artists, presenters and volunteers. They are the ambassadors to our audiences and we would not be able to do what we do without them.” (MaryAnne Van Watteghem, Education and Public Programs Coordinator, AGW, 2012.)
The art gallery is the most ideal place to access the original art, but it’s not the only way to view the AGW’s collection. Embracing technology, the AGW began digitizing the permanent collection of 4,000 items in 2011. Funded from the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Museums and Technology Fund, the project will improve the gallery’s collection management and increased public access to a selection of the permanent collection. The AGW also has an online presence using Facebook, Twitter and Youtube where the art can be enjoyed.
Technology has not only changed the way we see art, but the way it is presented. For curator Srimoyee Mitra, new technologies expand the possibilities for curatorial interpretation of the art. “It is important to acknowledge and understand the constant research, and what the artist is using,” said Mitra. (Cultural Engines Interview, 2012) Artist and art works are influenced by a range of technological issues including everything from mechanisms to play films and video to preservation and presentation of art.
The AGW’s Education Department extends out into the community to make the gallery available to all who want to learn about the permanent collection and exhibitions. First director-curator Kenneth Saltmarche encouraged young people through the arts, partnered with community and city-wide organizations and offering volunteer opportunities to foster community engagement in the arts.
One major event, Art in the Park, a long-established annual city event, was partly created to bring people in the community to Willistead and support local artists through purchase of their work. Over the years, the AGW has also partnered with other galleries to showcase the permanent collection. The Group of Seven and Other Highlights from the AGW’s permanent collection has been exhibited in the Gibson Gallery in Amherstburg.
For several decades, the AGW maintained an art rental program and this was one way the AGW reached out to the community. The program brought art into homes and businesses in the community, raising public awareness of the art gallery and interest in Canadian art.
Today, the AGW continues its mission to educate through partnerships and outreach. Each year, thousands of children and adults take part in activities planned and initiated by the AGW. Some of these have included City Walk for the Arts, Art in the Park, the Multicultural Council’s Carrousel of the Nations and the Chocolate Festival and the Sandwich Towne Festival. The AGW also offers teacher’s workshops that offer opportunities for teachers to create lesson plans that relate to the AGW collection and special exhibitions.