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Art Gallery of Guelph adapts to changing and challenging times

The art gallery reopened its doors in July and has several new exhibits

The Art Gallery of Guelph has launched a new season of exhibitions this month and people are making the visit, both in-person and virtually.

Since closing in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the gallery reopened its doors in July.

“Visitation has been strong. For many, the gallery is a safe environment and an open space for learning where individuals and families can explore new art and ideas,” says Shauna McCabe, director at the Art Gallery of Guelph (AGG).

Today, visitors explore the gallery with additional social distancing and health and safety precautions in place.

Attendance numbers are limited, and visitors will find signage, spacing, directional markers and hand sanitizers throughout the facility.

“Prior to the pandemic, events at the gallery offered an opportunity for community members to engage directly with art, artists, curators and fellow art lovers in conversation and hands on learning,” McCabe said.

“Since restrictions on in-person gatherings were introduced, the gallery has found new ways to share exhibitions and educational content online via the website, e-newsletter and social media platforms.”

With the return of in-person visitors, virtual programming has also grown in popularity

“Virtual programming has been well received. In July and August, the gallery offered a new virtual summer camp program, Camp-To-Go, that combined online learning with kits full of art materials. Campers and parents alike enjoyed the combination of live instruction and hands-on artmaking,” McCabe said.

“Since March, the gallery has made documentation of current exhibitions available online for visitors around the world to enjoy from home. In a sense, exhibitions are now available globally, 24/7.”

Online virtual school programs will continue to be offered at the gallery.

“We are introducing a virtual program for kids on Saturdays and hosting upcoming talks related to exhibitions as well. To support at-home learning, the gallery launched several programs available on our website as part of our #MuseumAtHome initiative,” says McCabe.

“Schoolhouse Studio Sheets, for example, is a series of fun at-home activities inspired by artworks in the gallery’s collection. In addition, the gallery has developed curriculum-based materials for teachers based on current exhibitions.”

Established in 1978 as the former Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, the AGG operates today with three sponsors – the University of Guelph, the City of Guelph and the Upper Grand District School Board.

“The new season of exhibitions speak to the possibilities for generative relationships with land and environment,” says McCabe.

“Featuring artists from across the Americas, the exhibitions on view offer a dialogue that connects decolonization with pressing issues of climate change, environmental sustainability and social justice.”

One of the new exhibitions, Sin Cielo / Skyless, depicts Clemencia Echeverri’s ongoing exploration of the social dynamics, cultural practice, and history of Colombia, specifically the after effects of mining in the county’s northwest.

Also, Carolina Caycedo’s A Landscape Is Never Natural, explores the interconnectedness of nature and social systems in the exhibition.

Grounding, curated by Maya Wilson-Sanchez, includes artwork made from the ground, work that uses as its material basis, the same valuable natural resources that drive world economies.

Visitors to the AGG can still catch Christi Belcourt’s exhibition, Uprising which continues until October 11.

Uprising is a mid-career retrospective of the work of Michif (Métis) visual artist Christi Belcourt. It brings together over 30 paintings, celebrating her creative achievements over 25 years of artmaking.

This exhibit is complemented by the work of knowledge holder, storyteller, and artist Isaac Murdoch, whose iconic images, such as Thunderbird Woman, are symbolic of the Indigenous resistance movement against resource extraction.

“The Art Gallery of Guelph offers compelling encounters with artists from around the world for visitors of all ages,” McCabe said.

And art isn’t only found inside the gallery.

“Extending the social space of the gallery beyond its walls, the AGG’s Sculpture Park is the most comprehensive contemporary outdoor art collection at the public gallery in Canada, with permanent installations by regional, national and international artists,” says McCabe.

Whether in person or on-line, education is at the heart of the all the gallery has to offer.

“As an educational organization, the gallery is always interested in exploring new tools that support online learning and research,” McCabe said.

The AGG continues to reflect issues that are important to the community.

“In the last few months, it has become clear that art institutions have a critical role to play in recognizing and challenging historic oppression, concerns reflected throughout our exhibitions, programs and collections,” McCabe said.

“The Art Gallery of Guelph aims to address issues that matter to our communities through our work with artists, with a vision focused on being an inclusive and participatory art museum at the heart of the community.”