Skip to Content

Art Gallery of Ontario

Keyword Site Search

Pets take centre stage in newest AGO Kids’ Gallery exhibition

Animal costumes, whiskers and tails encourage kids to pose for portraits alongside works by Colville, Pratt, Trier and Hogarth

TORONTO — Art to make you paws! From out of the vaults and into the Art Gallery of Ontario’s (AGO) dedicated Kids’ Gallery comes a veritable menagerie of artworks featuring furry friends. Opened on Dec. 20, 2014, Pets and Me is the second installation in the interactive AGO Kids’ Gallery series, sponsored by BMO Financial Group. Featuring over 20 works of art including paintings, a video, sculptures and prints from the AGO’s European, Canadian, Inuit and photography collections, the exhibition includes a variety of multi-sensory activities, including a touch-and-feel flip book, audio tracks, interactive iPad Q&As, costumes, a photo booth, a drawing station and books about pets to inspire adults and children to meaningfully engage with art.

“The response to the first Kids’ Gallery exhibition focusing on portraits of children was enormously positive. Providing space for families to learn about art and play together is our ongoing goal,” said Deborah Nolan, manager of public programs and audience development. “This new exhibition, which features even more hands-on learning opportunities including— flip labels, art hung at child height and audio recordings of children discussing art— is an exciting step forward.”

"BMO Financial Group is proud to support an exhibition that enriches the lives of children and their families,” said Nada Ristich, Director, Corporate Donations. "As Lead Sponsor of family programming at the AGO, BMO has an opportunity to fund activities likes these that educate and engage the communities in which we do business."

The artworks in Pets and Me are hung at low heights and are barrier free, making it easy for children of all ages to engage with the art. Featuring images of children and animals from diverse periods, highlights of the exhibition include Alex Colville’s rarely seen screenprint Woman, Dog and Canoe (1982), Hendrik Goltzius’s portrait Frederick de Vries (1597), Joyce Wieland’s short film Catfood (1968) and Inuit sculptor Pitseolak Niviaqsi’s Rabbit (1982).

The exhibition is curated by Lloyd DeWitt, curator of European art at the AGO. According to DeWitt, “Animals play a variety of roles in art—they can be servants, they can be subjects, they can be symbols. Whatever their function, they remain a timeless source of artistic inspiration. We’re gathering a diverse selection of works from the AGO collection that feature pets as subjects in order to offer our youngest visitors both a mirror to see themselves in the art and a window to peer into other eras and cultures.”

The AGO invites families to learn, play and rest inside the Kids’ Gallery with books, drawing, audio and dress-up activities. Animal-inspired costumes and props, whiskers and tails are available for visitors to dress up in when they pose for their own portraits. Families are encouraged to post photos of themselves or their favourite pets on Instagram with the #AGOkidsgallery hashtag to see their images appear on a screen in the space.

For more family-friendly fun, the AGO’s Family Creativity Lounge in the Margaret & Jim Fleck Gallery offers visitors of all ages a space to rest and make art in a relaxed atmosphere. The Weston Family Learning Centre also offers families a dedicated area for art instruction and creative play. The Dr. Mariano Elia Hands-On Centre is open to the AGO’s youngest visitors from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

As well, caféAGO is available to all Gallery visitors to enjoy a snack and beverages before or after any of the family activities.

The AGO gratefully acknowledges BMO Financial Group, Lead Sponsor of AGO Family Programs.

For more than 195 years, BMO Financial Group has believed in community reinvestment and corporate and social responsibility in the communities it serves. In 2012, BMO contributed more than $87.6 million in donations, sponsorships and events in Canada and the United States to groups, organizations and programs that help build and sustain resilient, vital and healthy communities.

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 Ken 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, to register for programs and to buy tickets or memberships.

Aug. 23, 2014 – Jan. 4, 2015: Alex Colville

Oct. 18, 2014 – Jan. 11, 2015: Michelangelo: Quest for Genius

Feb. 7, 2015 – May 10, 2015: Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now's the Time

The Art Gallery of Ontario is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport and receives 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 images and other press inquiries, please contact:

Andrea-Jo Wilson; News Officer, AGO Communications
416-979-6660, ext. 403,

Caitlin Coull; Manager, AGO Communications
416-979-6660, ext. 364,

Share and Enjoy: