The Art Gallery of Ontario (the "AGO"), located in downtown Toronto, was founded in 1900 and now has more than 80,000 works in its collection, including a large Canadian collection as well as many masterpieces of European art, contemporary art and photography. The AGO is one of the largest art museums in North America but it's also one of the most family-friendly that we have visited.
This past Sunday was a dreary, rainy day so we headed into Toronto to visit the AGO. We spent an enjoyable few hours exploring our favourite galleries, visiting the blockbuster exhibition of rare works by British painter J.M.W. Turner, and, of course, pausing for a snack in the Galleria Italia. We were reminded just how kid-friendly the AGO is as we were joined in the gallery by many other families spending the afternoon exploring art and participating in the Family Sunday activities.
Family Sundays at the AGO
The Art Gallery of Ontario welcomes families and offers family-friendly activities in the galleries anytime that you visit. Activities include:
- Kids Activity Bags which include activity cards of fun things to do while visiting the AGO.
- Drawing Stations found throughout the gallery.
- Kids' Gallery at the AGO which is a special exhibit space created specifically for parents and children where they can experience art first-hand and have fun. The current exhibit is Pets & Me which includes a number of fun activities as well as a photo booth where visitors can don a costume and share the photo taken on Instagram using the hashtag #AGOKidsGallery.
- The Dr. Mariano Elia Hands-On Centre (located in the Weston Family Learning Centre) which is a fun play space for parents and children up to the age of 8 - includes art-making, constructing, creative story time and costume play.
In addition to the above activities, Family Sundays are also back at the AGO starting November 1, 2015 to April 24, 2016. In previous years, Family Sundays only happened once a month but they now take place every Sunday from 1-4pm in the Weston Family Learning Centre. The interactive activities which are inspired by the gallery's exhibitions and collections change on a monthly basis and provide an excellent opportunity for parents and children to engage with art. The theme during the month of December is Celebration! and includes activities centred around music and instrument-making. When we visited last weekend, the Weston Family Learning Centre was buzzing with activity and families with kids of all ages were clearly enjoying their day at the AGO. The theme for the month of January will be Enchanted Winter Garden which will include an imaginative winter sculptural garden complete with gingerbread houses and whimsical plants created by Toronto artist Paddy Leung.
J.M.W. Turner Exhibit
If you are able to visit the AGO in the next few weeks then I recommend attending the Turner exhibit as well. J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free opened on October 31, 2015 and closes on January 31, 2016. The exhibit features more than 50 paintings and works on paper on loan from Tate Britain and is the first major exhibition to focus on the artist's later years. The exhibition is organized thematically and looks at Turner's travels across Europe, his fascination with classical history, mythology and religion, his love of the sea, and his pre-occupations with capturing light and atmosphere.
My 12 year-old daughter wasn't familiar with Turner's work before seeing the exhibit and was immediately taken with it as she felt the paintings were quite like the work of the impressionists that she admires so much. Having made this observation, she was thoroughly pleased with herself to learn later on in the exhibit that many of her favourite artists, such as Claude Monet, were actually inspired by Turner's work. At several points in the exhibit there are screens playing clips from the critically-acclaimed film about the artist, Mr. Turner ,which was nominated for four Oscars in 2014. The use of the dramatic film clips are an interesting method of providing insight into the artist as a man. We particularly liked the scene where he had himself strapped to the mast of a ship during a raging storm so that he could fully experience the elements and accurately portray the power of the storm in a painting. Emma thought she might like to see the movie but a quick Google search revealed that it is rated R so we won't be seeing it any time soon! There is an additional fee for non-members to see this exhibit but it is well worth it if you have the opportunity.
What You Need To Know
- The AGO is located at 317 Dundas St. West in downtown Toronto. The closest subway station is St. Patrick. There are a number of paid parking lots in the vicinity but no parking at the AGO itself.
- The AGO is closed on Mondays. Opens daily at 10:30am but closing time varies - check website for details.
- Current admission prices can be found online on the AGO website. There are reduced admission prices for Seniors, Students, and Youth and there is a Family Pass available as well. Children 5 and under are free. Admission to the AGO is free on Wednesday nights from 6pm-9pm.
- Family Sunday events are included in the cost of general admission.
- Babies are welcome at the AGO and strollers can be used in the galleries with the exception of double-wide strollers or strollers with extra large wheels. A stroller may also be rented free of charge at the coat check.
- There are baby changing stations located in all public washrooms.
We received complimentary media passes to visit the AGO.
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