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2005 04 04
Art Matters, People Matter
imageMore than half a million people visit the AGO every year. More than 450 work here and another 700 are committed AGO volunteers. When I think about how institutions connect to communities (and our transformation project has me thinking about that a lot) I always come back to that central truth: To be successful, the connection must be rooted in personal relationships.

My first job in the cultural world was in 1981 as an intern at the AGO, working in the education department when I was at graduate school. I felt proud and connected to my hometown gallery. But to continue my studies I moved away, back to London, England and then to various curatorial jobs. When I returned to the AGO as chief curator in 1993, I remember my first day. Mike Litnovetsky was the protection services officer at the door, and he greeted me.

“I haven’t seen you in a long time,” he said, a broad smile working its way across his face. It was a homecoming for me, and my own smile was both heartfelt and grateful. Mike was working here in 1981 when I was an intern and he works here still. He made me feel welcome then, as he still does today. The AGO is not only my place; it’s his place, as well.

So I wasn’t surprised when one of our long-time volunteers, Barb Carson, said the following when she was featured recently in an ad about the AGO. “Art museums should be available to everyone and volunteering at the AGO helps me support that belief. I love inviting people to my Gallery.”

Many staff and volunteers have worked here for a long time. I’ve been thinking lately of Marg Godsoe, a remarkable woman who volunteered at the AGO for almost 60 years. Her death in January seemed to close a chapter, but reminded me again of the enormous contribution people make to the Gallery, a place they care about deeply. Kathy Lochnan, our curator of prints and drawings, has been here for 35 years. Maia Sutnik, our associate curator of photography, has been at the Gallery for 41 years. Bill Fryday, another of our protection services officers, has been here 25 years. There are many such stories here.

That so many AGO people have remained connected for so long ensures that their caring and commitment are demonstrated each and every day as values of the AGO. Even as we're forced to make some reductions in our staff and volunteer complement while we're under construction, we know that our strength is in our people, today and when we open the transformed AGO in 2008.

© Photo: Christina Gapic, 2005, Art Gallery of Ontario
[email this story] Posted by Matthew Teitelbaum / AGO on 04/04 at 05:45 AM

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