TVO Arts is de-mystifying art consumption

Platform hopes to fill the gaps in current media

A collage of artwork from Season 1.
Credit: 
Supplied by TVO Arts

TVOntario (TVO) has launched TVO Arts, a new online platform to connect Canadians with art through short videos, interactive experiences, and educational guides.

Their first season of episodic content is available now. It breaks down six pieces of visual art made by Canadian artists, including Emily Carr and Kent Monkman.

In an interview with The Journal, John Ferri, TVO’s vice president of programming and content, spoke about the project’s inception and why it matters.

“The goal at TVO, because we’re such a small operation, is to fill gaps where we think they exist [rather] than compete with the big media players out there,” Ferri said.

“We felt there wasn’t this kind of approach to explaining, deconstructing, and de-mystifying Canadian art. [We felt TVO Arts] would work both for a general audience, and in a high school setting, it might be the entry point for discussions about what the art is trying to say.”

When funding cuts hit schools and public education centres, it’s typically arts that suffer in favour of STEM-based programming. Ferri hopes TVO Arts can remind people why art has value as an entertainment and educational tool.

“We think the arts are a way of creating a perspective on the world that is about thinking critically, about understanding ideas our brains are presented in sometimes unexpected ways.”

While TVO Arts’ intended audience is those in the 25 to 44 age range, Ferri believes it has a lot to offer those in their early twenties, like Queen’s students.

“My fundamental hope for what [young people] take away is that art isn’t remote and elitist,” he said. “It isn’t an exercise for the few, but an exercise for the many.”

Ferri acknowledged that art can be intimidating for many, with galleries often feeling too pretentious or prestigious for casual consumption. The need to make art more accessible is one of the gaps TVO Arts hopes to bridge.

“[Art], in most cases, is something that can resonate within the larger public conversation in ways that are sometimes surprising to people,” Ferri said.

“What we wanted to do was create an opportunity to show that even older pieces are relevant to your life and can be experienced in ways that are completely understandable.”

Racial gatekeeping is another barrier limiting art’s accessibility. Galleries frequently display exhibitions comprised entirely of art by white people and curated by white people. This paints an inaccurate picture of the diversity of art in Canada.

Fortunately, Ferri and the TVO Arts team are conscious of this barrier—much of the art featured in season one of their content is by creators of colour.

“Our strategic plan at TVO calls out the need to address underrepresented communities,” he said. “We’d be interested in having conversations about how we might narrow the focus onto a particular community, or a particular perspective as seen through the arts.”

Ferri added that the broader meaning matters.

“At the same time as we’re demystifying the experience of looking at art, we’re using it as a way to talk about the larger messages that the art represents.”

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