Art Gallery of Alberta

Annual Report Feature: Transformative Education

“Do you mean we can explore the gallery on our own?”

This is not the first time a teen has asked this question. One of many who came out to SWARM: Teens Take over your AGA, this young girl was nervous and excited to have the freedom to explore what she saw as an adult space, unsupervised. SWARM is a “parent-free” evening where teens ages 13-17 hang out with their peers, develop new relationships, discover the gallery, and engage in programming designed just for them.

Youth programming at the AGA (Studio Y, Youth Weekend Art Classes), began as a response to a gap between child and adult programming at the gallery. In 2015, SWARM and other youth initiatives such as the Youth Council and Youth Studio built on these early programs and were designed to foster a safe environment for teens to independently explore and engage with the artistic process. The first youth council, called The Hive, was created to further this goal of encouraging youth in their self-directed exploration of the arts. The Hive is a group of dedicated volunteers committed to developing teen audiences at the Art Gallery of Alberta. Council members gain exclusive access to the inner workings of the gallery, have unique opportunities to collaborate with local artists and creative professionals, and work alongside museum staff to design and develop youth programming initiatives.

In addition to implementing new youth programming in 2015, the AGA Education department made inroads into new community collaborations, including embarking on a new partnership with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the Winspear Centre to offer an Art and Music ArtBreak Camp. This camp split programming time between the Winspear and the AGA, and offered participants the chance to engage with music and visual art at both institutions. An alliance was also formed with the E4C’s Women’s Emergency Accommodation Centre (WEAC)—a local organization that offers homeless women emergency accommodation—bringing residents from the centre to participate in art classes once a month. Both of these community partnerships are continuing in 2016.

With the opening of the Poole Centre of Design in 2015, program offerings also expanded to reflect this exciting new initiative. Teacher and school programs introduced Design Studio, providing schools with opportunities to participate in design-focused programming and classes. Drop-in and registered classes also explored these themes, allowing participants of all ages to learn about contemporary design.

Building on these accomplishments, Education continues to introduce new programming initiatives in 2016. With a wide variety of programs and partnerships in progress, Education is solidly poised to expand its reach even further in the coming year.