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2005 04 03
Through the Eyes of a Child
imageIt’s said of Picasso that he drew as an adult when a child, and drew as a child when an adult. He is alleged to have remarked, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

The critics and pundits will sustain the debate on how evident Picasso’s “inner child” was throughout his long career, but it is a reminder for the rest of us that seeing things from multiple perspectives allows deeper meanings to be expressed.

My own experience as a child at the AGO was formed in the company of my father, an artist, who took these visits very seriously. I remember well how intense these visits were, but they were also sources of pleasure and we came often. Today I see the art gallery through different eyes, not just those of a professional looking to forge a new model for art museums, but also through the eyes of those experiencing art for the first time. The joy and the creative feeling of it all stays with me from those early years.

And every now and again, as I walk through the galleries, I witness that awakening in other children. Not long ago, I overheard a conversation between a father and his pre-teen daughter as they were talking companionably about portraits in the Thomson collection.

“Cool,” she said. “Look at that. Look what he’s showing.”

Knowing that in any gallery at any given time there is a sudden and first realization of a shared language between the artist and the viewer is why I come to work each day. I come knowing this will happen again and again because families represent more than one-third of our memberships and well over 50,000 young people annually take courses at our Gallery School, participate in hands-on workshops or are a part of school group visits.

As we continue planning for the transformation of the AGO, we’re giving a lot of thought to the needs of visitors, young and old. We’re thinking about how to attract them and engage them -- through content and interactivity, through signage and hours of operation and a hundred other critical factors. If we’re doing it right we’re role-playing – walking in the shoes of different visitors long before their shoes ever set foot in the building.

Last week, in a meeting of our Transformation project team, one staff member responsible for display in the new galleries asked how high the art would be hung on the wall. At that moment, she and everyone else in the room were eight years old -- and short for their age.

Photo: Sean Weaver, © 2005, Art Gallery of Ontario
[email this story] Posted by Matthew Teitelbaum / AGO on 04/03 at 09:24 AM

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