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Opening minds with art

The AGO helped shape Brenda Ohngemach’s lifelong love of art. As a mother and teacher, she’s sharing her passion with the next generation.

Brenda Ohngemach

Image courtesy of Brenda Ohngemach

Like almost everyone else, Brenda Ohngemach has had to adjust to a new way of working and living over the past few months. As an artist, a high school art and history teacher, and a mother to her nine-year-old son Rudi, she has adapted to a more digital world. To help navigate these dramatic changes, Brenda turned to the AGO ̶ one of the touchstones of her life since she was young.

“The AGO is my happy place,” she says.

Brenda started a lifelong relationship with the AGO in her youth and became a Member as a teenager. Over the next few years, she spent hours strolling through the Gallery and jotting down notes about art that made an impact on her. From use of colour to composition, she developed a deeper understanding of technique, aesthetics and the stories behind the work, and eventually complemented her self-directed education with figure drawing classes at the AGO. “The Gallery was the hub where art was happening.”

Now, Brenda is helping both her son and her students learn, grow and realize their potential. She has brought hundreds of Scarborough high school students to the Gallery—many for the first time—to enrich their arts education. Seeing things through the eyes of the next generation of art lovers, she appreciates the growing diversity of art and perspectives at the AGO, and how this diversity sparks questions and discussion. “Kids naturally challenge ideas, and I like how the AGO encourages that.” 

Although she can’t visit the Gallery with her students right now, Brenda has made the AGO a big part of her online classroom. She regularly sends her students links to AGO from Home, so they can learn from the Gallery’s digital art-making workshops, artist spotlights and deep dives into specific artworks and eras. 

She also continues to foster her son’s relationship with art. As a history buff, she’s thrilled that Rudi shares her love of storytelling and investigating the past. “I’ve been bringing Rudi to the AGO since he was a baby. He really enjoys the stories told by the art, and the ones that connect to history and places are his favourite.”

Brenda hopes Rudi and her students come to appreciate art as a vital form of communication. “To communicate and speak to people and change their perspectives, that’s what I feel is the true purpose of an artist.” This vision, along with the deep connection she has built with the AGO over decades, inspired Brenda to create a legacy gift in her will. 

“The AGO has always opened its arms to me and the community,” she says. “I want to make sure the Gallery is always here for us.” 

Looking for more art news from the AGO and beyond? Stay tuned to the AGOinsider for resources and activities to help bring art and learning into your home!

This story is being shared as part of an ongoing series on AGO Legacy Giving

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