In June 2017, the National Gallery of Canada opened three major exhibition offerings, including: Canadian and Indigenous Art: From Time Immemorial to 1967, Canadian and Indigenous Art: 1968 to Present, and Photography in Canada, 1960-2000. This was the first comprehensive transformation of the Gallery’s national collection since it opened at its current location in 1988. We anticipated that visitors would need contextual information to help make connections between these multiple exhibition offerings. To that end, an engaging and interactive learning space was temporarily installed for the summer of 2017. Titled Our Stories, this space provided visitors with a framework to deepen their understanding of art through 8 different sections. It offered enjoyable and immersive experiences, told relevant stories, and inspired curiosity about the artworks on view.
The task was to create an orientation space that would introduce Gallery visitors, with a wide range of interests and motivations, to the history of art in Canada. It had to be engaging, interactive and responsive to multiple learning styles while helping visitors make connections between the multiple exhibition offerings on view. The experience in the learning space had to increase visitors’ comfort level with being in a gallery setting, and had to prepare them to interpret art in personally meaningful ways.
The strategy was to orient visitors to art in Canada, to offer them strategies for interpreting art, and to engage them through hands-on activities. Activities prepared visitors to look at art with purpose and meaning. The content and approach were developed using visitor research that told us visitors want to know how art is made and the historical context in which artworks are produced. Interactive units were designed to respond to the needs of multiple core target audience segments.The design moved visitors through sections where they could learn how artworks in various media are made, where they could understand the regional and cultural diversity of art in Canada, and share their own creativity through digital activities before leaving to visit the main art exhibition galleries. The colour coding was brought through from the learning center to the main entrance of each of the three art exhibition galleries.
The project was initiated, researched, conceived, designed, fabricated, and installed within a few months. We had to design, oversee and implement the layout and construction of the physical exhibition space, as well as create all visual and didactic materials with limited internal resources. Due to the compressed timeline, much of the content creation, design and fabrication occurred concurrently. We had to create a visual identity with aesthetic appeal that also communicated our key messages, concept and image to visitors of all ages, while meeting the limitations imposed by space and budget.
4,750 square feet in size, Our Stories was open to the public from 14 June to 4 September 2017, and attracted 50,480 visits, representing 37% of the Gallery’s visitors.
- Art Direction, Designer
- Stefan Canuel
- Julia Duncan
- Graphic Designer
- Frederick Gelinas
- Project Manager
- Aline Ruf
- Content Project Manager
- Katja Canini