That’s it, folks. 2020 is coming to a close. The year that memes and Tik Tok videos and Chive lists will use as fodder for decades to come is counting down its last days. But 2020 will not be going out like a lamb if the McMichael Canadian Art Collection has anything to say about it. They’ve got lots of great COVID-conscious programming lined up to take you into the new year. Parents, are you looking for ways to engage your kids while they’re off for Christmas break? Adults and teens, want great virtual tours and socially-distanced classes to add some holiday spice to your Hanukkah? McMichael has you covered. Check out what’s on at the gallery this holiday season.
The holidays at McMichael
Despite needing to scale back its offerings for health and safety measures, staff at McMichael are still encouraging people to come in manageable, controlled numbers. But if you cannot come for an in-person visit, there are virtual ways to connect and be a part of the McMichael community instead.
From December 21st on, McMichael presents its ArtVenture Online challenge, in which a series of short videos will be shared on the gallery website to introduce children to the various exhibitions on view. Each video will be linked to an interactive art project involving materials that can easily be found at home. The last video, scheduled for the 26th, will challenge children to respond to the artwork in the McMichael collection by creating their very own masterpiece. Then, from December 26th through January 3rd, families are encouraged to visit the gallery in person (which will be timed and ticketed) to view these exhibits up close so that they can correlate their own art projects with what they are seeing on display.
“We invite families who visit to look for some details within the gallery spaces that we discussed on our videos,” says Anna Stanisz, Director of Creative Learning and Programs. “They will be asked to use those details to respond with a creative process, and we are also asking them to hashtag us and post their creations on social media. Eventually we will be awarding some memberships to the gallery for the winners.” This idea, Anna explains, gives kids a creative outlet over the holiday down-time from school. After all, what family with kids at home isn’t looking for some kind of outing that they can experience together?
Also back for 2020 are McMichael’s youth winter camps. These will kick off on December 21st with a drawing studio instructed by artist Andrew Sookrah. In addition, Mr. Sookrah will host a three-day virtual painting workshop for high school students. And finally, beginning December 28th, McMichael will host a four-day in-person ArtVenture winter camp, which is a studio-based program designed to help kids hone their in-studio art skills.
“Even though this is a difficult and complex time, we are responding to the needs of children and parents—especially those families who have chosen to keep their children home and do online learning rather than in-class,” Anna explains. “The general feeling we’re getting from parents is that McMichael provides a much safer place where their children can interact in a structured environment with their peers. The social interaction is still very important, and our camps and classes allow this.”
For all of you art-loving adults looking to fit in a bit of culture over the holiday season with friends, group bookings are available. This is an option which, at this time of year in particular, is quite popular with special interest groups. And in response to COVID-19, McMichael has expanded its virtual tours, which are designed to allow for interaction, conversation and activities. These virtual tours have been developed for every exhibition that is on display, so if you and your group are not able to make it out to Kleinburg in person, you can still experience McMichael from home. Virtual tours are offered three times per week, and are limited to thirty people per tour.
Fulfilling a need for families and friends
You might be tempted to wonder why the gallery has gone to the trouble of remaining open when it’s probably easier to shut down. But nothing could be further from the reality we are facing in these times of social distancing. The fact is that people are increasingly eager for the interaction and programs provided by McMichael. “People need that space,” Anna Stanisz says. “This was something that we noticed immediately after the lockdown in March. With fewer options available region-wide, our classes began filling up a lot quicker.”
She adds, “For our adult classes, we decided to offer in-person sessions for up to ten people, so we could ensure social distancing and masks and all the precautions. I would say that eighty percent of the class was people over 70. There is a need for these people, because they have very few spaces where they can feel safe, do something enjoyable and have a conversation.”
It is all the more noteworthy, the lengths to which the McMichael Canadian Art Collection is willing to go to keep its community engaged, when one considers the extra coordination and expense. Let’s face it, creating a safe environment is a challenge on all fronts. Not only must the logistics of staffing and cleaning be configured, the net cost of hosting these events is greater, with the same instructor fee per session, increased cleaning costs, and decreased revenue due to the scaled-back participant numbers. Yet they press on anyway. “We feel that it’s very much something that is important,” Anna states. “We are providing a service, and we will continue to do so for as long as its needed, and as long as we have [the provincial government’s] encouragement.”
Kudos to everyone at McMichael from all of us at York Durham Headwaters. In turn we encourage you, our readers, to take advantage of McMichael’s holiday programming. Check out what’s on at www.mcmichael.com or call (905) 893-1121.
McMichael Canadian Art Collection
10365 Islington Ave.,
Kleinburg, ON L0J 1C0
Story by Katherine Ryalen