AGO’s 1st Thursdays

I have longingly read about cool parties being thrown at famous art galleries like the MOMA (in NYC), the Art Institute of Chicago, and the LACMA (in LA) and truly pined for something similar to take place in Toronto. These events serve to engage a generation of young(ish) adults in art in new ways. Bringing together music, education, and art with themed events, these after hours parties allow the art-minded community to visit the galleries under new and unique parameters.

The ROM began a Friday Night Live event this past spring, but something about just wasn’t quite my cup of tea.  And then in October, the AGO launched its inaugural 1st Thursdays event. I attended the second event in November and you know what? It was THE most amazing night.  I had that incredible feeling of civic pride, mixed with warm fuzzies, splashed with a real sense of community and belonging.  Best yet, I felt this all under the roof of my favorite building in the city.

1st Thursdays is an art party extraordinaire with two installments under its belt, both to sold out crowds. Tickets are a mere $10 ($8 for members) and are available in advance on the AGO website.  Each month’s event has focused on one of the many exhibits on display at the gallery, along with a myriad of other activities and performances to suit any taste.

November’s 1st Thursday showcased contemporary photography and the 2012 Grange Prize winner was publicly announced.  All of the nominees were in attendance and their work was on display to be viewed. I had a great chat with this year’s winner, Jo Longhurst,  about being nominated and her upcoming 2-month stint as artist-in-residence in Toronto. She is quite excited to work in Toronto, a change from her native London, UK.

2012 Grange Prize winner, Jo Longhurst.

Musical guests DIANA, a newly-formed band from Toronto, played in the main atrium below the baroque stairs. Their sound was beautifully amplified in the big space and artwork specially curated for their set adorned the space around the stage. They can absolutely consider me a new fan & supporter.  After DIANA’s set, Katie Stelmanis, lead singer from one of my favorite bands of the moment Austra, took to the decks and DJ’d for the rest of the evening under mellow lighting.

Upstairs in the Galleria Italia, a different mood was set. A DJ spun fun dance hit remixes, patrons danced, and a nude male model posed for the crowd in front of aisles set up to be used by anyone who wanted to take a turn at some life drawings.

The crowd was beautiful and stylish (yes, you!), and refreshingly all age groups were represented (for once, I didn’t feel old!). The best part is that there was no pretension, as I would expect to normally accompany such an artsy event. Serving to enhance the whole experience, there were four well-placed bars throughout the gallery with a great selection of VQA wines and local micro-brews, and margaritas to celebrate the current Frida & Diego exhibit. The booze helped to loosen up the crowd; everyone was open, excited and eager to make new friends (yes, in Toronto!). Snacks (tacos and oysters, of course) and nibbles were available for sale, too.

Mark your calendars: 1st Thursdays of each month, 6:30 p.m. – 11:00 pm. I’ll be there each and every single time. Tickets are already on sale for December’s event featuring the amazing, Polaris Prize-nominated Yamantaka // Sonic Titan. Since tickets sold out in advance last month, I already have mine!

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