Toronto galleries get creative to bring art and insight direct to homes with virtual programming

Galleries and museums took part in a collective mad dash to bring exhibits, programs, and information online as COVID-19 closed doors throughout the city. While revenue has taken a hit, curators are surprised at the effectiveness of digital options while heavily relying on social media to engage audiences.

The Art Gallery of Toronto (AGO) has several immersive talks spanning everything from artist perspectives to an open discussion about the current role that galleries play. AGO’s #AGOfromhome initiative brings visitors digital programming created to spark conversation, including conversations with journalists and authors. Sign-ups and invitations to events can be found on the museum’s Facebook page.



The Power Plant is currently offering free programming and a slew of online courses, including writing workshops, film screenings, and artist lectures. The gallery’s focus, visual art, translates particularly well to digital platforms presenting an opportunity for the museum to reach a broader audience.

“We’ve been able to reach and bring contemporary art and ideas to people from across the country and the globe, which is really exciting,” says marketing and communications manager, Jaime Eisen.

The Power Plant’s kid-centered “Power Kids” sessions offer kids (or exhausted parents seeking a bit of downtime) home-based activities (use the hashtag #powerkids). The gallery plans to continue its virtual offerings and has set up a virtual fundraiser to help support the free exhibitions.



“In May 2020, we launched Power Up, a virtual fundraiser to benefit The Power Plant’s free exhibitions, public programming, and vital outreach initiatives. As part of Power Up, we have been sharing powerful words from members of the many communities we serve,” Eisen says.

While the fundraising program helps generate needed revenue for the museum, the project’s goal is to keep programming free while also representing artists from across the world.

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is also taking exhibits online. Visitors to MOCA’s website can find lectures, interviews, stop animation clips, and other visually stimulating content. The museum’s collaboration with the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival means bringing the festival’s works online for the first time.

The Contact festival usually runs until the end of May, but going digital means an extended exhibit — great news for photography enthusiasts and those that may not have had a chance to attend. Some future exhibitions may also live online, given the uptick in international visitors.



“Since we have launched our new online programs, we have seen more international visitors. We are also working to commission several art projects for 2021 that may exist entirely in the digital realm,” says Danielle Lim, the museum’s senior marketing manager.

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) has also taken the digital leap by allowing site visitors to peek inside the museum’s “cabinets” to see collections not currently on display inside the museum. Fifty thousand objects exist on the museum’s site, and visitors can browse using an interactive map or by search term.

ROM’s curators have also created some fun content for kids, including a detailed description of how to mine a chocolate chip cookie and how to create a food web mobile. Kids can find numerous activities on the ROM website or follow the hashtag #romathome for activities kids can do.

Article exclusive to TRNTO