Selection from “COMMUNITY ARTS & THE MUSEUM: A Handbook for Institutions Interested in Community Arts” (Ontario)

7 04 2011

Here is a selection from the ArtsAccess Project’s “Community Arts & the Museum: A Handbook for Institutions Interested in Community Arts” (download in PDF (7.45MB)








A New Model for Art Education: Community Arts and the ArtsAccess Project

The ArtsAccess project emerged in the early 2000s, out of conversations between the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and sister institutions throughout the province of Ontario, Canada, regarding what it meant to be a provincial art institution in the 21st century. Over the previous decade, the AGO had experienced a dramatic decline in the demand for its Circulating Exhibition Program by Ontario art museums. Contrary to our assumption that evaporating resources was the issue, colleagues told us that while temporary exhibitions filled their exhibition calendars for a period of 3 to 4 months, this resource did not help in addressing the more pressing challenges facing museums. These challenges included connecting with their communities, creating a profile for their museum, sustaining local programming initiatives and supporting artists and artistic practice in their regions. Our question became: How might we work together to create a provincial project that addressed local issues and had a legacy for the institutions and communities involved?

Consultations with local community leaders, educators and artists throughout the province led to the creation of ArtsAccess—an experimental province-wide art education and community arts initiative involving four art museum partners: the Art Gallery of Ontario, Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford, and the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. The project posited a radical new model for museum outreach — a model that was more about building community and local creative capabilities than about audience development, marketing or program delivery. The premise of the project was to put a number of local artists into residence in their local communities for a period of four years. Their role was to work with community groups, schools, organizations and social agencies to identify issues that might be explored, understood or given new profile or expression through art. Each artist would serve as a facilitator and broker between the communities and their local art museums so that the projects could be shaped and resourced appropriately.

Together with art museum education and administrative staffs, the artists in each of the four partner communities created a new community of professional art education practice that evolved into a network of sharing and expertise. This network was grounded in an annual symposium that brought together all the artists, museum educators and administrators, as well as national and international leaders from the field of community arts practice to analyze, document and evaluate the work. The network was further enhanced by the creation of Collection X — a community-generated database featuring the art collections of partner institutions plus artworks and projects uploaded by artists and community members involved in the ArtsAccess project and by members of the public at large.

This publication is yet another legacy of the ArtsAccess project: a handbook for anyone — artist, museum or community organization — interested in creating a community art project. We have attempted to distill the many stories and lessons learned over four years, from over 100 projects and workshops involving more than 100,000 participants. The project participants’ voices throughout this handbook are a testament to how museums, artists and communities can work together in new, meaningful and lasting ways. The results are relationships, experiences and memories that are truly transformative.”

Kelly McKinley
Richard and Elizabeth Currie Director, Education and Public Programming
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
Fall 2010

-The handbook was compiled and edited by Tara Turner and Judith Koke. This selection is posted with permission from Judith Koke; Deputy Director, Education and Public Programming at Art Gallery of Ontario

“This handbook is the legacy of the ArtsAccess project, a four year partnership between the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, and the Woodland Cultural Center…This handbook is for anyone, artist, museum or community organization – interested in creating a community art project.” (from the AGO’s Art Matters Blog)


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