January 23, 2021

BY SARA HANAFI

The Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery (KWAG) opened its virtual doors to the public by launching an online project on Nov. 7.

Sponsored by Google, the project, called Interactive Space, allows viewers to take a guided online tour of the exhibitions that are on display.

Nicole Neufeld, director of public programs at the KWAG, hopes the project will reach out to new and returning audiences in a different way.

“It was a bit of a chicken-and-an-egg kind of situation,” she said. “Putting information about our exhibitions and trying to do some outreach and education online has been on my radar for a long time.”

Not only does the Interactive Space allow audiences to view all the works of art, but also listen to commentary from the curator and even the artists themselves. The online experience adds an extra layer of information that gallery-goers wouldn’t get, since the privilege of having the curator host a guided tour is restricted to video only. The downloadable audio tour boasts the same personal experience, where the artists divulge the inspiration and meaning behind their pieces.

“It adds a whole other experience,” Neufeld said. “You get a deeper understanding of what the work is about that you wouldn’t get from just looking at it and reading the exhibition labels.”

However, Neufeld said people should still come to the gallery and not be satisfied with the virtual tour alone, because the information in the online tours is supplementary.

“The thing about contemporary art is a lot of it is really experiential,” she said. “Our audiences could hear the artists talk about their work, but to really understand what the work is about, they have to come in and see it.”

Currently, the only exhibit online is the gallery’s main exhibition, called Ecotopia, which focuses on environmental conservation and destruction in our technological age. In the future, Neufeld said the gallery will have all of the exhibitions available to view on Interactive Space, including audio tour material for both the main exhibition and gallery spaces, and in the Eastman galleries. The project will continue throughout 2013.

“I think we’re going to use (Interactive Space) as an experimental point for how we can continue to work on our online presence,” Neufeld said. “It’s hard to say what’s going to come next, since technology is changing so fast.”

Additionally, Interactive Space offers audiences a family activity guide and links to current online exhibitions, as well as information on current exhibitions at the gallery.

The KWAG also has over 4,000 works in their permanent collection, which are held in public trust, available for viewing online through the Interactive Space. Over 100 of KWAG’s permanent collection pieces are also available through Collection X, which is an online project initiated by the Art Gallery of Ontario as a communal hub for sharing art.

Interactive Space can be accessed from the KWAG’s website, www.kwag.ca. More information on the KWAG can be found on their website, Facebook page or Twitter page (@kwartgallery).