Monday, November 26, 2007

Why Does It Matter?

Doing some random browsing on the web in an effort to keep up-to-date, I came across the Art Gallery of Ontario's collectionx website. I'd visited the AGO late last December, and was very intrigued by some of their work in connecting with audiences. On one blog entry, they posit some questions that they as a staff have been pondering as they undertake major re-installation in their new building:

What is art?
Why does it matter?
How do we connect with each other creatively?
How can we discover new relationships together?
How can we create meaning?
How can we raise issues?

The connect part of the website talks about their exhibitions--and explores the answers to a whole range of questions about art, elitism and community. But for community based museums, the site also, perhaps unintentionally, provides a raft of ideas for exhibitions that might help them connect better to their own communities. I saw In Your Face, their exhibit of community (including nationally and internationally) portraits and self-portraits last year--and watched visitors of all ages, classes, and ethnicities spend substantial amounts of time looking at the work done by thousands of people who mailed their postcard size portraits to the museum. But then there's community and personal mapping, Carbon Copy, where students created a forest out of paper waste, numbers of outdoor art installations exploring a community's past (and in several cases, using boarded up or empty lack of those in upstate New York)....

And I very much like the part of the website that encourages people to share either their own artwork or artwork that interests them. You can find Misfortune Cookies, a series of vapour trail images shot in the skies around Toronto, and The Shooting Gallery, a project of the Thunder Bay Arts Gallery in Northern Canada, that features work by First Nations' young people.

Above: Portraits from the In Your Face project at the Art Gallery of Ontario

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