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The kids are alright: AGO youth outreach program celebrates 10 years

“I can honestly say without a doubt that being part of the AGO youth council was integral to shaping where I am today. Being part of the council made us feel like we could do anything.”
— Robyn, Youth Council, 2000

(Toronto: August 7, 2009) Ten years ago, the Art Gallery of Ontario launched its groundbreaking TEENS BEHIND THE SCENES Program as a welcoming home for young artists — and young imaginations — in the city of Toronto. With the help of committed artists, community partners and youth participants, TBTS has played a significant role in shaping the youth art scene in Toronto over the past decade, and has involved more than 1500 local young people in its programs. To mark this important milestone, the AGO presents a number of commemorative events and exhibitions that celebrate the first decade of this award-winning program as well as the talented teens who brought it to life.

The festivities begin on August 12, 2009, the day after UN World Youth Day, with a party in Walker Court from 6 to 8:30 pm — featuring dance artists, a DJ battle, past members of the program talking about their experiences, and remarks from AGO Director and CEO Matthew Teitelbaum. August 12 is also Opening Day for two commemorative exhibitions, with tours provided by past and present members of the Youth Council:

InTENse: Ten years of Teens Behind the Scenes at the AGO is a retrospective exhibition featuring some of the great projects created by the AGO Youth Council and their partners over the past ten years. The show will also feature the latest work by AGO Youth Council 2009: Underground Sasquatch Protection Network, a new project created in collaboration with the One Nation in Unity program at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto and guest artists Rebeka Tabobondung and John Hupfield.

InTENtion: Responding to ten years of youth programming at the AGO is a residency for ten past participants of the AGO youth programs who have returned to create ten new video projects reflecting on specific works in the AGO’s permanent collection and the memories they have of them. The works have been created in partnership with Charles Street Video and guest artist Sarah Sharkey Pearce.

“Initiatives like TEENS BEHIND THE SCENES and the FREE AFTER 3 high school access program make the AGO a destination for youth and inspire future generations of artists and members,” says Teitelbaum. “These outreach efforts have transformed the AGO into a community hub for people young and old alike. We’re thrilled about it.”

The anniversary festivities will continue throughout the fall with a number of special events and workshops — including an inventive art-music combo in the Anne Tanenbaum Gallery School on August 21 that invites participants to learn silk-screening while taking in a performance by LAL (a Toronto-based collective of musicians with cultural ties to Uganda, Bangladesh, Barbados and India). All AGO Youth Council special events are free and open to the public, including the launch party on August 12. The AGO’s TEENS BEHIND THE SCENES program is generously supported by Lead Sponsor Ericsson. Additional support is received from the Tippet Foundation and the Lloyd Carr-Harris Foundation.

The AGO Youth Council has dazzled the city with some of the most imaginative and unforgettable art projects — from a skateboard ballet featuring dancers from the National Ballet of Canada and Toronto’s hottest skateboarders, to a forest installation made entirely from a month’s supply of paper destined for recycling. A hotbed of innovative thinking and artistic collaboration, the Council works with local and international artists to support and inspire youth artistic engagement; promote and explore diverse media; draw attention to social issues; and bring together diverse communities.

Young people in the TEENS BEHIND THE SCENES program have a chance to complete volunteer hours for their high school diploma and many participate in the AGO’s co-op and internship programs.

With a permanent collection of more than 79,000 works of art, the Art Gallery of Ontario is among the most distinguished art museums in North America. In 2008, with a stunning new design by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, the AGO opened its doors to the public amid international acclaim. Highlights include Galleria Italia, a gleaming showcase made of wood and glass running the length of two football fields along the Gallery’s façade; and the signature staircase, spiralling up through the roof of Walker Court and into the new contemporary galleries above. From the extensive Group of Seven collection to the dramatic new African art gallery; from David Altmejd's monumental installation The Index to Peter Paul Rubens' masterpiece The Massacre of The Innocents, a highlight of the acclaimed Thomson Collection, there is truly something for everyone at the AGO.

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For more information or visuals please contact: Sean O’Neill, 416 979 6660 ext. 403,
Antonietta Mirabelli, 416-979-6660, ext. 454,

For more information on the AGO Youth Council and the full calendar of events please visit

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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