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Thanks, Mom, for making art matter

Ahead of Mother’s Day, we connected with an AGO visitor who shared their story about the impact of their mom’s love for art and the AGO. 


A child and his mother

Image courtesy of Aubrey Podolsky

For this Mother’s Day, the AGOinsider reached out to a lifelong visitor whose story about his mother’s devotion to the AGO touched our hearts. Aubrey Podolsky wanted to thank his mom for introducing him to the AGO years ago.

By Aubrey Podolsky

“To my amazing, wonderful, caring, creative mother - thank you. Thank you for a million things, but mostly for teaching me that there’s nothing more important in this world than infusing life with care and creativity. Because that’s what makes the soul grow; caring about the world around you and finding creative ways to do that. You taught me that lesson through art. And our first schoolhouse? The AGO.

Let’s take a trip back to the winter of 1985. At the time, you were taking painting and drawing lessons at the Gallery. This was when you started taking me to the AGO. You would go early each week, exploring the halls and exhibitions, spending hours upon hours telling me about what you were seeing. Stopping at each of your favourite paintings, you described to me what you loved about them, why they mattered, their form, their context. At least I think that’s what you said. I can’t remember – you were still pregnant with me.

When I was born, you chose a name for me that came from your love of art. When you were young, you would painstakingly recreate the art of Aubrey Beardsley – an art nouveau disruptor, contemporary and collaborator of Oscar Wilde. I love that you and dad chose this name, as it instilled the values of uniqueness and originality – hallmarks of the best artists. Your peerless sense of style, artistic talent, design taste and penchant for making and creating has had the deepest possible impact on me. More than anyone I know; you live up to Wilde’s words, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

And we didn’t stop going to the AGO. I have these incredible memories of being there as a kid, seeing the Henry Moore sculptures, the Group of Seven paintings, the occasional burst of colourful pop art. This place was – and still is – hallowed ground for us. And as I grew up, going to galleries together became a favourite pastime, a way to reconnect over art. The MOCA, Power Plant, Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto, MOCAD, the DIA and Elaine Jacob Gallery in Detroit. A couple of years ago, we took a trip to New York – just the two of us – to visit endless galleries but you and I both know it all started in Toronto at the AGO.

I was asked for this piece to describe what the AGO means to me. It means the world to me. The foundation of my worldview was laid here and it’s thanks to your introduction many years ago.

Today, my partner Melissa and I are building on that. We recently took our first child, then just three months old, to the Early Rubens exhibition. And we’ll keep taking him, and hopefully, he’ll love it as much as I did as a kid and create memories that last his lifetime. Today, I share the AGO with him because the most incredible woman I know shared it with me. Thanks, mom. Happy Mother’s Day.”

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