It warms our heart to see different cultural organizations coming together to provide free programming for Canadian kids.

Since the fall, over 500,000 students have participated in the AGO’s free virtual school programming, which offered a variety of classes, organized into five categories: Art and the Environment, Art and the Senses, Indigenous Art and Artists, and Getting to Know Art of the African Diaspora, and Highlights of the AGO’s Collection.

The initiative has been a huge success. In November, I enjoyed sitting beside my six year old to absorb a lesson we registered for. Eavesdropping, I was both surprised and impressed to learn that there were entire grade-school classes joining from schools all over Ontario—from Mississauga to Sudbury—as well as individual families. Imagining children all over tuning in from home, as well as educators and caregivers, gave me a rush of good feelings. 

Since the initiative first started, they’ve been experimenting with the offerings, and collaborating with other cultural organizations to expand programming.

This week, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra partnered with the AGO to create classes that explored the connections between visual art and music, and next week the National Ballet of Canada will explore movement and performance, inspired by the artworks in the AGO Collection. In June, guests from the Canadian Centre for Architecture (one of our most beloved museums in Montreal) will explore alternative architecture practices.

Partnerships have also moved beyond borders, including collaborations with the Hong Kong University Museum and Art Gallery and New York City’s MoMA (Museum of Modern Art). HOW COOL IS THIS?

“Nearly a year after we made the decision to engage with our audiences online, the response from artists, teachers, members, funding partners, and our diverse publics, remains incredibly enthusiastic, and we are very excited to be collaborating with so many partners. This shift to online programming has been transformative in terms of our ability to bring art education and programming to broader audiences,” said Audrey Hudson, the AGO’s Richard & Elizabeth Currie Chief, Education & Programming.

We cannot wait to return to the AGO (hopefully this summer!) to experience exhibits in real life, but the creation of these programs is definitely allowing kids all over Canada to access programming and gain exposure that would have involved time, money, and transportation, which may not have been a possibility pre-pandemic times. Similar to film festivals like TIFF and Hot Docs this new level of accessibility is wonderful to see, and definitely an example of a solution for Covid that we hope sticks around.