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AGO First Thursdays dishes a dose of Art as Therapy

Toronto’s biggest art party reveals the therapeutic power of art with pop-up performances, art making and live music by 2014 Juno nominees The Darcys

TORONTO — First Thursdays at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) will harness the healing power of art on May 1, 2014. Inspired by philosopher Alain de Botton’s upcoming AGO exhibition Art as Therapy, the party will leave guests feeling renewed for the spring with special performances, interactive activities, art making and music. Advance tickets for this 19+ event are $12 for members and $15 for the general public. Advanced purchase is recommended, as this popular event regularly sells out. Doors open at
7 p.m. and the party continues until 11:30 p.m

Marking its North American debut at the AGO on May 3, 2014, Art as Therapy is presented as a series of interventions co-curated by renowned British philosopher Alain de Botton and art historian John Armstrong. The project features selected works from the AGO’s permanent collection accompanied by interactive strategies designed to connect visitors to the art on a personal level. The interventions aim to illustrate the therapeutic potential of these works in five areas throughout the Gallery. First Thursdays-goers will have a chance to hear the exhibition’s co-curator John Armstrong discuss the innovative, new exhibition at 8, 8:30 and 9 p.m.

Art-rock locals The Darcys headline the night with a performance in Walker Court at 9:30 p.m. Described by the Toronto Star as a mix of “Neil Young, contemporary Brit-pop and shoegazer glaze,” the 2014 JUNO Award-nominated band will ease AGO guests with their therapeutic sounds. Dancing kings and queens can sway their stresses away in Galleria Italia as Maylee Todd takes the reins of the all-night dance party with her favourite party tunes.

Hanna Hur presents Popcorn (My Body, Your Body) from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the Henry Moore Sculpture Centre. Using reiki energy healing practices, her interactive performance explores the therapeutic potential of art to elicit physical, mental, and spiritual healing. During the session, visitors’ reclining bodies will contrast and mimic the sweeping, monolithic forms of Henry Moore found in the space.

Toronto-based conceptual artist Basil AlZeri will perform It is Not Guided, Nor is it a Tour.  From 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., a group of AGO gallery guides will transform visitors’ experience, blending in with the crowd and engaging in semi-scripted dialogues with unsuspecting observers, exposing the level of engagement visitors are willing to invest in the historical and contemporary art works on view at the Gallery.

At 9 p.m., Toronto theatre artists Michael Rubenfeld and Sarah Garton Stanley present mothermothermother inside the Reuben Wells Leonard Memorial Gallery. The performance explores a conversation between Rubenfeld and his real-life mother (Mary Berchard), secretly recorded as the two await news about the mother’s prognosis. The raw, personal performance exposes unresolved issues between mother and son as the two work toward resolution.

Therapeutic doses of self-expression are encouraged at AGO First Thursdays with art making found throughout the galleries. This month’s activities include a self-portrait station and collage table. As always, guests can relax, socialize and enjoy cocktails and pints available at bars throughout the Gallery. Party-goers can purchase food and drink with cash, credit and debit cards. This month’s menu includes porchetta sandwiches, coconut shrimp, fish cakes with tartar sauce, and, in celebration of springtime, Mango Daiquiri and Piña Colada cocktail popsicles.

Tickets for May’s First Thursday are on sale now. Regular-priced tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. Admission for AGO members is $10 in advance and $13 at the door. Party-goers can now purchase $22 advance combo-ticket packages for Francis Bacon and Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty and May’s First Thursday. The exhibition will be open until 10 p.m., with the last entry at 9:30 p.m. AGO members enter the exhibition for free but are encouraged to book tickets in advance. Tickets can be purchased and booked online by visiting

For details about First Thursdays, visit and follow #AGO1st on Twitter and Instagram.

Official Beer Sponsor: Grolsch

Media Partner: NOW Magazine

The AGO acknowledges the generous support of its Signature Partners: American Express, Signature Partner of the Conservation Program; and Aimia, Signature Partner of the Photography Collection Program.

With a collection of more than 80,000 works of art, the Art Gallery of Ontario is among the most distinguished art museums in North America. From the vast body of Group of Seven and signature Canadian works to the African art gallery, from the cutting-edge contemporary art to Peter Paul Rubens’ masterpiece The Massacre of The Innocents, the AGO offers an incredible art experience with each visit. In 2002 Kenneth Thomson’s generous gift of 2,000 remarkable works of Canadian and European art inspired Transformation AGO, an innovative architectural expansion by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry that in 2008 resulted in one of the most critically acclaimed architectural achievements in North America. Highlights include Galleria Italia, a gleaming showcase of wood and glass running the length of an entire city block, and the often-photographed spiral staircase, beckoning visitors to explore. The AGO has an active membership program offering great value, and the AGO’s Weston Family Learning Centre offers engaging art and creative programs for children, families, youth and adults. Visit to find out more about upcoming special exhibitions, to learn about eating and shopping at the AGO and to register for programs and to buy tickets or memberships.

April 5, 2014 – July 20, 2014: Francis Bacon & Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty

Aug. 23, 2014 – January, 2015: Alex Colville

Oct. 18, 2014 – Jan. 11, 2015: Michelangelo

The Art Gallery of Ontario is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Additional operating support is received from the City of Toronto, the Canada Council for the Arts and generous contributions from AGO members, donors and private-sector partners.


For media inquiries about AGO First Thursdays, please contact:

Laura Banks; News Officer, AGO Communications
416-979-6660, ext. 504, laura_banks@ago


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