Spring into a Durham art gallery or museum!

This article was previously published on Oshawa This Week.

Donna Raetsen-Kemp, CEO of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, on cultural treasures in your backyard

Photo of CEO Donna Raetsen-Kemp

Your Durham Region museums and galleries are gearing up for spring!

We’re all working hard to bring you the kind of programming you want — inspiring, challenging, engaging, thought-provoking and, heck yes, even entertaining. You might be surprised at the wild array of creative and cultural things to do right here in your own backyard.

At The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, we’re shining a bright light on our local community. We’re looking for meaningful, interactive ways to connect you with our arts programming and national calibre exhibitions. We’ve added unorthodox gallery programming like yoga and mindfulness sessions to our roster. Surprised? Surveys suggested it and we agreed — what better place than an art gallery for gentle movement and quiet reflection?

On a more traditional arts note, check out the meditative quality of working with clay at the Visual Arts Centre of Clarington.

On the flipside, art galleries can be amazing places for social gathering. The all-ages, RMG Fridays, on the first Friday of each month, and Station Gallery’s April Drawing for Art are great examples of amped-up cultural events that bring people together in celebration of art. Whether you like your arts and culture experience served up slow and quiet, full of energy and enthusiasm, or somewhere in between, your Durham Region art spaces have something in store for you.

If you know your public art gallery well, visit soon. If you never thought a public art gallery or museum was the place for you, give it a try! You might be surprised to find that there’s a whole lot more going on behind those doors than you imagined.

Your Durham Region galleries are free to visit, so drop by for 10 minutes or stay for an hour. Sometimes it takes a few visits to feel a connection.

Consider a gallery hop. Start your day at the RMG, SG or VAC and plot your course from there. You may want to add a visit to Parkwood Estate, the Canadian Automotive Museum or the Oshawa Community Museum.

And, finally, it may not feel like it right now but summer is just around the corner. If you’re looking for ways your kids can flex their creative muscles, public art galleries across Durham Region have a plethora of summer art camp options. Be warned, programming is top notch, so spots will fill up fast.

Check out the websites for more details – and then jump in with both feet.

Get to know us! Sam Mogelonsky, Manager of Marketing and Communications

At the RMG, we often get asked about what we do each day, how we got into the crazy museum world and also what skills would be needed to do our jobs. With graduation looming for many college and university students, we will be profiling members of our team to shed some light on what it is we do behind the scenes!

To start, we sat down with Sam Mogelonsky, who is the voice behind the RMG’s digital platforms, to learn more about her day and how she came to the gallery.

 

The RMG: What’s a typical day like for you?

Sam Mogelonsky: Firstly, no day is the same for me! My job is a lot like a party mix—part writing, part design, part print, part digital, but very fast paced. The first thing I do each day is open up all of our social media feeds and check in to see if we have had any questions over night on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Then I’ll typically write a morning post about something happening either later that day or upcoming at the gallery. I also have a master list of every upcoming deadline for advertising materials so I check that daily to make sure I get everything designed and delivered in time.

Once I have my morning postings and general emails taken care of, I will focus on an upcoming project or deadline. It could be designing our upcoming newsletter, writing press releases for exhibitions, updating our website, helping to design signage for the gallery or more long term planning for events such as RMG Fridays or fundraising. At the moment, I have two PR interns from Durham College so I am trying to impart some marketing wisdom on them by showing them hands on tools, like Google Analytics and HootSuite. There’s always something that comes up in a rush that needs some finessing or a design eye. I check in on social media about every few hours and will be posting throughout the day to stay in the conversation.

 

artist

Sam at Making Methods, 2013

RMG: How did you get into this field?

SM: I started at the RMG about a year and a half ago. I had exhibited at the gallery in Making Methods (2013) and was captivated by the space and also loved working with Senior Curator Linda Jansma. Before that, I was working for a boutique advertising agency, managing the studio and web development. My past clients in the ad world have included car companies, telecom, hotels, tourism destinations, charities, restaurants, and even a dog food company! I was also doing a bunch of design and marketing projects for my friends in the art world—mainly designing websites and running social media campaigns for artists and galleries… and I still do this on the side.

I always had a keen eye for advertising and design, with my first projects being posters for my high school’s musicals. I grew up in a household surrounded by art and was always very interested in how to communicate visually. Since I studied fine art and am now an artist as well, understanding how people communicate and interact is key to my practice.

 

RMG Exposed

RMG Exposed 2015, staff and volunteers shot

RMG: What skills or training do you need for your job?

SM: I think the main skills are being able to communicate clearly in words and visual imagery, which I got from my undergrad in fine art and art history at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario and my Master’s Degree in sculpture from Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design in London, UK. Writing and story telling has always been key to my many roles which writing for art history and critical thinking definitely teaches you!

The more technical skills I have just picked up… in undergrad, I wanted a website for my graduation, so I taught myself how to build a website (note, in 2006 something like Squarespace didn’t exist so you had to code direct with HTML and CSS). For web building now, I use WordPress. The first site I built took quite a while to figure out, but now I’ve made over 30 websites so I can probably whip a small one up pretty quickly.

When I wanted to make projects that required image editing or video, I taught myself how to do it using online tutorials and working with friends. When I first started, I had a hacked copy of Quark Xpress and learned by using dummy books and really thinking about typography. It’s a lot of trial and error and practice… use InDesign a few times and you will forget the features—use it every single day and it becomes second nature.

Social media is a whole new beast! Being the bridge between the digital and analogue generations, (I got Facebook in 2005 and was one of the first among my friends to have it in London when I moved to the UK) I grew up before every moment was digitized. There’s so much out there and I think the way we engage with social platforms will continue to shift and evolve as we build the internet together. As the voice of the gallery online, I do my best to keep up with digital trends and am always looking for the next network we should branch into.

Hootsuite dash

Hootsuite social dashboard for the RMG

RMG: What’s your favourite part of your job?

SM: Meeting the artists, seeing the collection and learning from my team. The most exciting moment of an exhibition is definitely when I get to meet the artist behind the work and learn more about their practice. I have been able to meet so many wonderful artists through working here (Coral Short, Pete Smith, Ron Shuebrook, Holly king, to name a few). They have really shone a light on what’s happening in Canadian art today and been inspiring.

I am also exceptionally proud of the new RMG website we launched in winter 2015 (that houses this article)! It was really fantastic to work with Junction Design on this project and ensure we made a site that worked for the many needs of the gallery, while providing a great user experience.

OAAG speaker

At the OAAG conference at the Art Gallery of Windsor in 2015, speaking about RMG Fridays and building a community

RMG: What are 5 things you couldn’t live without in your job?

SM: iPhone, MacBook Pro, Google Drive, Adobe CS and Instagram.

museum selfie

At the AGO for #MuseumSelfieDay with the Floor Burger by Claes Oldenburg

RMG: What do you get up to outside of the RMG?

SM: At the moment, my life outside of work is mainly focused on art – making it, seeing it and reading about it. When I’m not at the RMG, I’m probably on a gallery crawl, in the studio or curled up reading articles on Hyperallergic, Canadian Art, Sculpture or Juxtapose. I love good wine and food so that’s my other go-to, a good bottle of VQA and a tasty meal, especially if it involves oysters. Anyone who hangs out with me knows I love anything that sparkles, so I am always on the hunt for awesome vintage pieces with glitter. I am a big dog lover, so I try to spend as much time with my parent’s adopted 120lb Bouvier puppy, Hondo, as I can. I also have a sweet spot for bad ‘80’s and ‘90’s action movies. Die Hard is a masterpiece. Yipee Ki Yay!

 

For more, follow Sam at @sammogelonsky

Interview with Co-Op student Swetha Srikanth

Swetha Srikanth is a grade 11 student at O’Neill C.V. I. and this summer she completes her placement with the RMG. She sat down with the RMG to discuss her experience at the gallery this spring.

The RMG: How did you get involved with volunteering at the RMG?

Swetha: I got involved with the RMG through the co-operative education program, which is an amazing opportunity that I got through school. I was interviewed last year and started my placement this February. I was familiar with the gallery before then, but working here for the past five months has really allowed me to fully appreciate and learn about the many areas of this gallery.

The RMG: Why were you interested in volunteering in an art gallery?

Swetha: I was interested in this placement specifically because it relates to the work that I would love to do in the future. I have always been passionate about visual arts, and am hoping to become an interior designer and manage my own design firm. This environment has allowed me to start to understand how businesses work.

The RMG: What have you been doing during your placement at the gallery?

Swetha: I started working with Norah O’Donnell in February and Carla Sinclair in the past few weeks. I have done so many creative and administrative tasks to help improve the system that is in place for the volunteers, as well as provide services for the public through event preparation and RMG Shop management.

The RMG: What is one thing you want to share about the RMG?

Swetha: The sense of community within the workplace. The employees are extremely welcoming, positive, and show appreciation to the other workers and volunteers. There were many collaborative tasks that I was involved in, which made me feel like a part of the community. They also allowed me to feel comfortable and be seen as a co-worker, rather than a high school student.

The RMG: What is your favourite museum?

Swetha: I’m not sure that I have a favourite place, but one of my favourite memories is when the Specialized Visual Arts Program at O’Neill took a trip to Buffalo, NY and visited the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. It was the first time I was with some of my best friends and had the opportunity to experience incredible artwork and discuss it with them in depth. It was nice to be around likeminded people while visiting a new gallery, and I’m really glad that I have experienced that feeling multiple times since then.

The RMG: What is your first memory of art?

Swetha: My first memory of art is something that I remember creating when I was about four or five years old. I had painted an elephant, and I remember it being framed on the wall for people to see and feeling really proud of what I had done.

The Value of Community Art

Vol ‘n’ Tell is an ongoing series of blog posts written by RMG Volunteers. Raechel Bonomo is an Oshawa native, art enthusiast and second-year Print Journalism student at Durham College.

As you walk into Gallery A, the new community art space at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, you are greeted by the scent of fresh paint as your eyes wander across the brightly colours where paint is not only on the canvas but spilled off and onto the walls.

A concept carried out by artist Pete Smith and a literal out-of-the-box interpretation of what this new space hopes to bring Oshawa.

In the last two years, community art studios or “art hives” have been emerging across Oshawa. The concept of public-based art is reinforced by city initiatives such as Culture Counts, an arts, culture and heritage plan introduced last year.

On a larger scale, the RMG has recently hopped on the community art studio bandwagon.

Elizabeth Sweeny is the manager of public programs and art reach at the RMG. She says the RMG surveyed more than 100 people in the Durham Region regarding art-based community development and found a high demand for a professional space to display art.

Gallery A is the answer to that call.

Opened early this year, Gallery A is a professional exhibition and studio space in the lower level of RMG intended to offer opportunities for artists in the community to share their work. The space also plans to provide educational opportunities to community members including information sessions and technique classes.

“Durham Region is full of culture and we are certainly building on that. We know that artists need more spaces to exhibit, so absolutely it’s helping to address that void,” says Sweeney.

Among these spaces is The Vault, or the V3 Collective, located in downtown Oshawa.

The Vault is a volunteer run space where artists and community members can make, display, and buy art. The owner of the space, Zal Press, believes in the concept of local art and as an economic catalyst.

“If you look back, economic growth and prosperity is grown by the creative class,” he says. “It’s not only the growth but it’s resilience, the capacity to change with time.”
Press considers Queen Street West in Toronto, where he resides, as a respectable model for Oshawa to follow.

He credits Toronto artists for the popularization and economic drive in the area. They were able to draw attention to areas with local art, creating a buzz loud enough to capture the attention of city. Wherever the artists were, development came.

According to Press, development occurred along Queen Street West wherever artists such as visual, performers and musicians occupied. For example in the 80’s, Spadina and Queen used to be an area populated by artists until it was developed into a shopping hub.

“Follow the artists and you’ll find the money,” says Press.

This economic model and new wave of thinking can be rooted to The Rise Of The Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community And Everyday Life written by Richard Florida. It promotes the vitality of out-of-the-box thinkers to create a sustainable economic environment, specifically in cities.

In Oshawa, art and art studios are being used as a both a tourist attraction and a reason to bring residents downtown.

Steven Frank put this idea into action in 2012 when he created Oshawa Space Invaders (OSI), an art crawl that occupies vacant buildings in the downtown area.

“It helps show the potential in individual spaces that may end up being leased as a direct result of our exposure,” says Frank.

Not only does this idea engage local artists, 200 participants in 2014, to display their work as well as art appreciation from community members, it serves as an economic driver for downtown businesses. The foot traffic during OSI last year brought more than 5,000 visitors downtown.

“By creating an event that brings together the creative community in an innovative way we help people envision the downtown as a place of vitality, worthy of investing in,” says Frank.

In the last year, even more community art hives have developed in Oshawa’s downtown.

The Livingroom Community Art Studio began as an idea in the head of Mary Kronhert in 2007 while she was studying to be an art therapist in Toronto. Derived from an article from Concordia professor and owner of La Ruche D’Art in Montreal, Janis Timm Bottos, Krohnert was introduced to the concept of a free, community space where members of the public could walk in and make art.

“Art spaces like this tend to revitalize neighbourhoods and make the areas around them more colourful,” says Krohnert.

A $38,000 Ontario Trillium Grant was used to pay for rent, materials and one part-time staff member, made the Livingroom studio possible. Krohnert also relies on community donations to keep the studio afloat, a call well received by the public that has filled the studio with paint, fabric and even some musical instruments. The walls of the studio are lined with buttons, paper, pipe cleaners, the epitome of any crafter’s heaven.

Despite only being open for a couple of months, the studio has been well received by the community. According to Krohnert, studio attendance has been high with new and returning walking through the door every day.

“There’s nowhere else like it,” says Krohnert. “This is something Oshawa needs.”

Together the creative class is helping to evolve Oshawa to create a more viable, economically strong city – one art hive at a time.

 

Image- Postscript, Pete Smith, 2015.

Free Family Programming for 2013

Happy New Year!

It isn’t an overstatement to say that in 2013 the RMG has big plans to expand our programming to include lots of new free opportunities for families to engage with art. We love our community and we know that families work hard all week and want to hang out on the weekend and have quality family time. We’re hoping that in 2013 you’ll choose the RMG once a month as a place to learn, connect, and communicate with your family through the creative arts.
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In 2012 we launched the incredibly successful OPG Second Sundays program. It’s a free art workshop series on the second Sunday of each month, sponsored by Ontario Power Generation. We had a great response and held many jam-packed art workshops. Due to popular demand, we’re expanding that program this year so that registration is no longer required, and all are welcome! All families should drop-in between 1 and 3pm on the Second Sunday of each month to work with gallery staff on guided art projects with themes celebrating the Lunar New Year as well as our many exhibitions.

Check out the OPG Second Sundays Schedule here.

ImageWe’re also introducing a new space in the gallery that is dedicated to families who want to visit the exhibitions with kids, and provide a chance for them to play, learn, and be inspired by art. Linger in the new Imagination Station! This space is currently being transformed into a family-friendly area with seating, books, toys, craft supplies, and cool interactive tools that will inspire, educate, and engage kids of all ages and abilities. The Imagination Station is launching in February, with an opening party on Family Day, Monday, 18 February. We are opening on Family Day for the first time in 2013 and are offering a free program to families. Come check out what we’re up to from 1-3pm. Enjoy light refreshments and a chance to try out the new Imagination Station (we’re calling it iStation for short!) The following weekend, we begin the regular iStation schedule, with the space being managed by trained educational volunteers who will help manage and guide craft projects, every Saturday and Sunday. 

You might think that was all we planned to offer in early 2013…but you’d be wrong! We’re also hosting a Festival of Colours celebration for families on Sunday 24 March. Phew!

ImageIf you’ve ever considered enrolling kids in our PA Day Camps, March Break Camps or Summer Camps, these free family sessions will help familiarize you and your kids with staff and the facility, so that the transition to full day camps is easy and exciting.

The RMG’s staff and volunteers are looking forward to meeting new families and connecting in new ways our community. If you have any questions about our free family programming, do not hesitate to connect with us. Email us at communications@rmg.on.ca or drop us a line on facebook at www.facebook.com/theRMG