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City Organizations Partner with AGO and No.9 to Bring Contemporary Art to Inner-City Students
Iain Baxter & Ecoartvan. Courtesy the Art Gallery of Ontario. © 2010 Iain Baxter & Ecoartvan

TORONTO.- The Art Gallery of Ontario and No. 9: Contemporary Art and the Environment are partnering with the Toronto District School Board, the Toronto Public Library, and the World Wildlife Fund to bring contemporary art and environmental education to 10,000 inner city elementary students across the GTA.

In collaboration with internationally-recognized Canadian artist IAIN BAXTER&, the IAIN BAXTER& ECOARTVAN hits the streets of Toronto from April 1 through May 31, and will visit 25 of the TDSB’s Model Schools for Inner Cities and eight local libraries.

The project’s mission is to introduce a new generation to the power of contemporary art and its ability to stimulate awareness and positive social and environmental change. The IAIN BAXTER& ECOARTVAN is a glassed-in cube van running on biodiesel fuel, which will display a new, No.9-commissioned installation by BAXTER&, who will transform the cube van into a travelling museum featuring artwork inspired by the artist’s long-standing interest in the environment.

“Not only is this an extraordinary opportunity for students to experience a work by one of Canada’s leading artists, it is an unprecedented extension of AGO programming into the community,” says Kelly McKinley, the AGO’s Richard and Elizabeth Currie Director of Education and Public Programming.

The IAIN BAXTER& ECOARTVAN will park in each school’s yard for two days, and will be accompanied by No. 9 Education Program Manager Pearl Van Geest and other educators. Van Geest will lead hands-on workshops with Grade Four student using a special education package designed in collaboration with BAXTER& and focused around the artist’s concern for animals and their habitats.

World Wildlife Fund Canada has generously contributed 2500 Adoption Kits, so that each Grade Four student who attends the workshops will receive a kit focused on an animal whose habitat is endangered. These kits enable tactile learning and ensure that the students have an opportunity to continue their engagement in environmental issues once the project concludes.

In addition to the in-school activities, the AGO and the TDSB have partnered to offer each participating Grade Four class – over 2200 students – a free field trip to the Gallery, where they will participate in a special gallery program called “Going Green: Art & the Environment”. On March 23, in advance of the program’s April 1 launch, teachers at each school will be invited to the AGO for a professional development session offering curriculum resources and training related the project’s themes.

On June 9, the students will be invited to attend a free evening celebration at the AGO with IAIN BAXTER& The students’ work will be displayed in Walker Court, and they will have the opportunity to meet with the artist and share their responses to the project.

“It is inspiring to see so many organizations come together for this very important cause,” says No. 9 Executive Director Andrew Davies, the project’s initiator. “An entire community will now have the opportunity for a direct encounter with art in a meaningful way, not only within the walls of an art gallery, but on their sidewalks and in their schoolyards.”

On weekends, when schools are closed, IAIN BAXTER& ECOARTVAN will visit local libraries, giving countless others an opportunity to view the work and learn more about art and the environment. An explanation of the project and BAXTER&’s work, written by AGO Curator of Contemporary Art David Moos, will be on view on the back of the van.

No. 9: Contemporary Art and the Environment also received a $75,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) in November 2009 to help with the program. A leading grant-giver in Canada, OTF strengthens the capacity of the voluntary sector through investments in community-based initiatives. As an agency of the Government of Ontario, OTF builds healthy and vibrant communities.

The Art Gallery of Ontario | Contemporary Art and the Environment | Richard and Elizabeth Currie |

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