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W. Garfield Weston Foundation Boosts Arts Education at the AGO

(Toronto, September 16, 2008) The W. Garfield Weston Foundation has committed the largest single gift in support of art education in the Art Gallery of Ontario’s 108-year history.

The foundation’s generous lead gift of $12 million will support the AGO’s $25 million campaign to significantly enhance its art education program -- $18 million for reconstruction and refurbishment of the Gallery’s existing education and public programming facilities and $7 million to create the AGO’s first-ever education program endowment fund.

The W. Garfield Weston Foundation will commit $10 million to the reconstruction project, to be named the Weston Family Learning Centre. The foundation will also commit $2 million toward the endowment, to be named the Weston Foundation Teacher Training Fund.

"The W. Garfield Weston Foundation has a long and celebrated history of support for innovation in education," says A. Charles Baillie, president of the AGO’s Board of Trustees.  "Highly successful in business and deeply committed to art and artistic expression, the Weston family is testament to the power of imagination and creativity."

"As the Transformation AGO Campaign moves toward its successful completion, we are poised to realize an ambitious vision for art education," says Matthew Teitelbaum, the AGO’s Michael and Sonja Koerner director, and CEO. "With this extraordinary gift, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation makes an unequivocal statement about the importance of art and creativity in our daily lives. Ontario will benefit from the Weston Family Learning Centre for generations to come."

The enhanced education facility will dramatically increase programming capacity for students, teachers and community members. Founded in 1930 by Group of Seven artist and teacher Arthur Lismer, today’s AGO education and community programming serves more than 100,000 youth, families, adults and educators, providing school curriculum enrichment, art classes, community outreach and teacher training.

When completed, the Weston Family Learning Centre will enable the AGO to increase participation in art education by as much as 50 percent. Custom-designed dedicated spaces will be created for students and teachers, for youth programs and for an artist-in-residence studio. Also planned are a visual media lab for digital media art projects, a state-of-the-art 90-seat education theatre for adult continuing education and a free gallery space for community-based exhibitions.

An education commons will welcome and orient teachers and students, while expanded and renovated studio spaces will create increased capacity for all-ages art instruction. A Frank Gehry-designed entrance and vestibule at the west end of the Gallery, part of the Transformation AGO project, will welcome up to 80,000 students annually to the new Weston Family Learning Centre.

The Weston Foundation Teacher Training Fund will support workshops for teachers in training in partnership with local faculties of education; professional development around special exhibitions and installations; workshops and summer institutes for teachers seeking additional qualifications; and online resources for teachers including lesson plans and activities related to the AGO’s permanent collection and special exhibitions.

Architect selection and design development will be underway by June 2009, with construction to begin in January 2010.  The Weston Family Learning Centre is scheduled to open in 2011.

The W. Garfield Weston Foundation has a longstanding relationship with the AGO, going back more than 30 years through associations with George Weston Ltd. and three generations of the Weston family. They have supported not only the 2006 Peter Doig exhibition, but also many capital projects, annual programs and other exhibitions and events.

"We’re deeply grateful for the Foundation’s contributions," says Teitelbaum. "With the completion of the Transformation AGO Campaign, we will build on the momentum of this generous gift from The W. Garfield Weston Foundation in seeking additional private and public support to realize this important capital and endowment project. We had the vision. Now we have the inspiration."

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For media information or visuals, please call:
Antonietta Mirabelli, 416 979 6660, ext. 454, Antonietta_Mirabelli@ago.net

The Art Gallery of Ontario is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Culture. Additional operating support is received from the Volunteers of the AGO, the City of Toronto, the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canada Council for the Arts.

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