Social and Civic Engagement
The AGYU believes that a contemporary art gallery should serve an aesthetic and social function, that it must be fluid and flexible and transform itself through a reciprocal engagement with artists and communities. Situated in one of Toronto’s most diverse suburbs and located at one of Canada’s most multi-cultural universities, AGYU has reinvented itself in order to become responsive to this nuanced cultural context and to make its location a catalyst for artistic risk-taking and institutional innovation. We’ve always believed that the institution itself must be self-aware, willing to change its very fabric and ways of working.
This radical reimagining of the role and function of a contemporary art gallery with a deep commitment to exploring the potential of our hybrid identity as a public-university gallery affords us means our projects are at once civic, activist, and pedagogical. With projects conceived to serve a social and civic function, the institution itself is challenged to play an active role. Transforming outreach into “in-reach,” we strive to be open to different forms of production, cultural protocols, and social economies and bring them into the gallery in order to change the way in which contemporary art is conceived and produced here.
Our contribution beyond the walls of the gallery proper is to imagine our civic role in the wider milieu of the visual arts community of Canada. We do this through primary research and advocacy, for instance the Waging Culture Survey—the go-to source for socio-economic data on Canadian visual artists.
Campus activation values students as change-makers and civic leaders. For us, set within a commuter school located in the suburbs, this also makes us a centre in the margins. Our campus activation takes into consideration the geo-political space of this milieu, where we forge active ally-ships to facilitate student-generated initiatives, using the campus grounds as a platform for public art, performances, and action-research.