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Songs of freedom

The AGO and Toronto History Museums team up this February to awaken the senses through art and sound in a new series of AGO Virtual School Programs featuring the song Freedom Heights (A Song for Joshua Glover).

Freedom Heights (A Song for Joshua Glover) Kardinal Offishall

Image courtesy of Toronto History Museums. Freedom Heights (A Song for Joshua Glover), 2021. Rendering of Kardinal Offishall by AVA Animation. 3D modelling by Quentin VerCetty.

What can sound teach us about our histories? As the AGO’s Virtual School Programs continue in the new year, February brings another noteworthy co-presentation, this time between the AGO and Toronto History Museums (THM). Students are invited to immerse themselves in art and sound with three new Art Beyond Borders sessions on February 3, 17 and 24. Each 30-minute Zoom session will feature a work from the AGO Collection, as well as three THM sites – Montgomery’s Inn, Fork York and Mackenzie House

Coinciding with the beginning of Black History/Futures Month, the first session on February 3 sheds light on the history of Freedom Songs and the contemporary track Freedom Heights (A Song for Joshua Glover). Commissioned by THM, the song and  music video were released last year to honour the legacy of Joshua Glover and his journey to escape enslavement and jail via the Underground Railroad. When he finally made it to Canada in 1854, Glover forged a new life as a free man living and working at Montgomery’s Inn. The song, produced by Kardinal Offishall, is performed by Jully Black, Susan Carol, Savannah Ré, Emanuel and Kardinal Offishall. Studies from the 2016 AGO exhibition Jérôme Havre: Legacy will be used to further inspire students. 

 AGO Art Educator and multidisciplinary artist Quentin VerCetty will lead the February 3 and 24 sessions, explaining to AGOinsider that “the partnership between the AGO and THM is an exciting joint venture that will activate both museums' collections in a very intriguing and complementary way. Without giving away too much, the opportunity will offer new ways for the attendees − regardless of age − to be impressed with the exploration and engagement with art, artifacts and content that frames history from unique perspectives.” VerCetty is more than acquainted with Joshua Glover’s story of courage and resilience, having designed the City of Toronto’s memorial sculpture for the Black Canadian figure in 2020

“There are a lot of fascinating historical facts and content that the students will be surprised to learn. The virtual school programming that we have in store will leave them with a deeper understanding of the artist expression of Black creatives that lives at the AGO and the growing preservation of history and legacy in the city. I am most definitely excited to be playing the role of being one of the THM Awakening artists who created content for several of their spaces and to be the art educator who can magnetically bring everything together.” 

Studies for Jérôme Havre: Legacy

Installation View, Studies for Jérôme Havre: Legacy, Nuit Blanche 2016, Weston Family Learning Centre, Presented as an Independent Project for Nuit Blanche through the AGO’s Artist-in-Residence program. Artwork © Jérôme Havre. Image © Art Gallery of Ontario.


After February 3, the learning continues. On February 17, AGO Art Educator Lauren Spring asks students to investigate the sounds of their kitchen with Fork York’s Historic Kitchen. On February 24, students will learn about Canada’s first Black female newspaper publisher, Mary Ann Shadd, and Mackenzie House. Shadd’s life story can be viewed under the tab "A Voice for Progress" at Last year, artist Adeyemi Adegbesan reflected on the impact of erasure, layered symbolism and the process of making his contemporary portrait for Luminary: Mary Ann Shadd, as part of the Awakenings series. 

For details and to register for this upcoming series, visit the AGO’s Virtual School Programs page

At the end of February in partnership with the AGO and Hart House, VerCetty delves into African and Indigenous Futurisms with AGO Richard & Elizabeth Currie Chief Audrey Hudson, artist Michael Belmore, and University of Toronto professor Dr. Karyn Recollet. Register here for their virtual conversation.

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