AGYU recognized for innovation in programming and exhibition design

The Art Gallery of York University has been recognized for innovation in programming and exhibition design by the Ontario Association of Art Galleries (OAAG) last week in Toronto.

Philip Monk shows off the award from the OAAG for his exhibit Is Toronto Burning? 1977/1978/1979 Three Years in the Making (and Unmaking) of the Toronto Art Community
Philip Monk shows off the award from the OAAG for his exhibit Is Toronto Burning? 1977/1978/1979 Three Years in the Making (and Unmaking) of the Toronto Art Community

The AGYU received two awards from the OAAG, which were presented during the 38th annual awards ceremony on Nov. 18. The gallery received the Exhibition of the Year (thematic) for AGYU Director Philip Monk’s Is Toronto Burning? 1977/1978/1979 Three Years in the Making (and Unmaking) of the Toronto Art Community, and the Public Program Award for Heather Cassils’ research-action piece Labour Intensive, curated by AGYU Assistant Curator Suzanne Carte.

In its decision to award Is Toronto Burning, which took place fall 2014 at AGYU, the jury noted: “This was an important exhibition due to its assessment of recent, archival material….? Exhibition layout and execution was excellent, with an evident depth of research. The publication, though not available as a public edition, presents significant potential for scholarly attention. The jury applauded the work involved in putting together this material.”

A project demonstrating AGYU’s commitment to student engagement, Labour Intensive took place during the fall of 2014 at York University’s Keele campus. Labour Intensive was a collaboration between Los Angeles-based artist Heather Cassils and students from the School of the Arts Media, Performance & Design Professor Barbara Balfour’s print making class, Faculty of Environmental Studies Professor Anders Sandberg’s course, and York University’s School of Social Work. In addition, Carte worked closely with the York Federation of Students, Trans Bi Lesbian Gay Allies, Sexual Assault Survivors’ Support Line & Leadership, Women’s Empowerment Club’s, Active Minds, Creative Art Student Association, Visual Art Student Association, International Student Association, Centre for Women and Trans People, Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG), and the Centre for Human Rights, all of whom contributed to the design and production of the project.

Suzanne Carte displays her award for the exhibit Labour Intensives
Suzanne Carte displays her award for the exhibit Labour Intensive

The jury said it was impressed with its scope and reach and the ways in which the project was genuinely student-led, noting in its decision the following attributes: “Engagement of local community in a creative manner. Brought in interesting collaborators. Did not feel didactic. Site-specifically looking at the needs of the students. Good documentation that made it an understandable project.” 

The following day, on Nov. 19 at York University, the OAAG in partnership with the AGYU and the Department of Visual Art and Art History in the School of Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD), hosted a lively and polemical workshop for an eager group of some 40 art professionals from across Ontario and a group of York University curatorial students.

Presenters Emelie Chhangur (AGYU), Wanda Nanibush (Art Gallery of Ontario), Stephanie Nadeau (Ottawa Art Gallery), Syrus Marcus Ware (YorkU PhD Student (Faculty of Environmental Studies/AGO), Elizabeth Sweeney (Robert McLaughlin Gallery), Christina Kerr (McMichael Gallery), Ellen Anderson (Creative Spirit Art Centre), Christopher Régimbal, Rebecca Gimmi (Justina M. Barnicke Gallery), and Erin Peck (Doris McCarthy Gallery) were charged with addressing the following questions: Can innovation in exhibition design and installation change how art is experienced and by whom through new models of accessible design or performative modes of civic engagement? What are the potential forces of change that can transform the gallery or museum institution from within?

Titled Innovation in Exhibition Design and Installation, the workshop was the most attended in OAAG’s history. It also represented the first such workshop that students attended. The students were able to attend because of an initiative by AGYU and AMPD that saw the AGYU paid the workshop fees for four top students to attend. AMPD provided the facilities and technical support for the workshop. In doing this, AGYU and AMPD brought museum professionals from across Ontario into dialogue with York University graduate students, who represent the future of Ontario’s gallery professionals. An hour-long tour of AGYU’s current exhibition, Marlon Griffith’s Symbols of Endurance, acted as a case study for new ways of presenting performance in a gallery and also for setting new standards for accessibility in installation design.

Emelie leads workshop
AGYU Assistant Director Emelie Chhangur (in spotlight wearing the patterned jacket) leads workshop tour of Marlon Griffith’s Symbols of Endurance exhibit 

The workshop was curated by AGYU Assistant Director/Curator Emelie Chhangur. Chhangur has won the OAAG Exhibition and Installation Design award five times over the past nine years and the OAAG Public Program Award four out of the past six years.

The AGYU is a university-affiliated, non-profit, public contemporary art gallery supported by York University, the Canada Council of the Arts, the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Arts Council, and the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council.

The gallery is open Monday to Friday, from 10am to 4pm, Wednesday, from 10am to 8pm, and Sunday from 12 to 5pm. It is closed on Saturdays.

Marlon Griffith: Symbols of Endurance continues until Dec. 6.