The Art Gallery of Mississauga is a public, not-for-profit art gallery located in the Mississauga Civic Centre, north of Celebration Square. The Gallery is open every day and offers free admission and guided tours. Founded in 1987, the AGM has undergone a recent reanimation that will continue into the future with a vision to try out new programs and reaching new audiences. A major facility expansion in the works is opening a Gallery entrance onto Celebration Square, which will elevate its visibility and put an end to the common misconception that the Gallery is located in the Living Arts Centre. Some of the Gallery’s current exciting initiatives include the Art of Yoga evenings, an exhibition on art and activism featuring the New-Delhi based Sahmat Collective coming this summer; an AGM/Girls on the Run Team in the Mississauga Marathon in May; and Roots and Branches—an educational program in schools funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
The wealth of non-profits and social services available in the Mississauga area is probably not well reported, as well as the fact that there is a large interest in the arts among its population. An indicator of interest is shown via the organizations in region such as Visual Arts Mississauga, the Mississauga Arts Council, Studio 89, Fair Trade Café and Artademic Resource Centre, creative writing youth collective Ink Movement and Peel-based poetry collective Pages on Fire.
The AGM’s mission begins with a statement that also begins dialogue at the Gallery: Engage. Think. Inspire. Its programming decisions are made with an interest in delving into broader lived experiences that represent diversity in a profound way to reflect the social fabric of the city. The Gallery aims to begin and maintain a conversation with the city. For those that are unfamiliar with art, it wants to pique their curiosity and develop visual literacy—knowing how to approach and look at art. For those who are more familiar with art and would be considered mature viewers, the Gallery aims to keep them challenged and intrigued by the works brought in and/or by how through various activities surrounding the artworks within the gallery work to delve deeper into themes in contemporary art.
A little known aspect of Gallery work is the amount of community engagement that is involved, which can run the gamut from skate parks to community gardens. As much as the Gallery’s work is around displaying aesthetics and technique, it also is aware and active regarding conceptual backing, linking art to social practice and the process and experience of interacting with an artist.
Because the AGM is interested in creating specific kinds of experiences, its Artists-in-Residence don’t always come from Mississauga, as is the case with the current holder of the position, Camille Turner. Turner was chosen because her work is very accessible, making her a great match for a Gallery that believes the public shouldn’t be required to be art savvy in order to enjoy art.
One of the participatory components of Turner’s residency is the (un)settler Community Journal, a project inspired by the importance of stories and informed by the awareness that some stories are often marginalized. The project crowdsources residents’ feelings of home and belonging in Mississauga. Thus far, besides individual participants, (un)settler has sourced stories through the delivery of free workshops to communities at the Dam Youth drop-in centre, India Rainbow, Malton Community Centre, MIAG Center for Diverse Women and Families, Peel Senior Link, and V!VA retirement communities.
The Gallery relies on all of its media partners for publicity in addition to its own social media presence, pulling from print sources like Spirit of the City and the Mississauga News to RogersTV, and the Region of Peel’s community listserv ZZG. A recent publicity highlight was a social mixer with YouTube comedian JusReign, who produced a vlog on the event and AGM’s F’d Up! fibre art exhibit which received more than 32, 000 views.
The Gallery recently presented a community conversation called On Edge, a three-part discussion on the role of contemporary art in an Edge City, and how the visual arts can contribute to a more stimulating city. The first event featured Peel Region TorStar Urban Affairs Reporter San Grewal, AGM Artist-in-Residence Camille Turner, Matt Boscariol, President of the Canadian Association of Student Planners, and Mark Warrack, Cultural Planner for the City of Mississauga.