The Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery opened its virtual doors to the public with an online project launch on Nov. 7.
Sponsored by Google, the project — called the Interactive Space — allows viewers to take a guided online tour of the exhibitions that are on display in the physical gallery.
Nicole Neufeld, director of public programs at the KWAG, introduced the project one year ago with hopes of reaching 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 at K-W Art Gallery, it also connects them with the gallery’s curators and artists. The online experience adds an extra layer of information that gallery-goers wouldn’t find in person at the gallery, since the privilege of having the curator host a guided tour is restricted to video only.
“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 artist 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, Ecotopia, which focuses on environmental destruction and conservation in our technological age. In the future, Neufeld said the gallery will have all of the exhibitions available to view on the Interactive Space, including audio tour material for both the main exhibition and gallery spaces. 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, the 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 more than 4,000 works in its permanent collection, held in public trust, that are available for viewing online through the Interactive Space. More than 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.
The Interactive Space can be accessed at kwag.ca. More information on the KWAG can be found on their website, Facebook page or Twitter page (@kwartgallery).