Dr. Toby Lawrence joined the AGGV in May 2024 as our Curator of Contemporary Art, a new role at the Gallery. We hope you enjoy getting to know her a bit more in this introductory interview!

Toby joins the AGGV from the University of British Columbia’s Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery where she was the Curator of Outdoor Art and previously as Curator at Open Space. She draws on 15 years of curatorial experience, working extensively throughout BC, and holds a MA in Art History & Theory from the University of British Columbia and a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on curatorial practice from the University of British Columbia Okanagan.

AGGV: The staff, volunteers and members at the Gallery are excited to welcome you back to the AGGV in the new role of Curator of Contemporary Art. How do you see your role taking shape here?

Toby Lawrence: Thank you! I’m excited to be back in lək̓ʷəŋən territory and working with the AGGV. There is so much potential here, with the size of the organization, to offer responsive programming and meaningful collaborations. I will be building on the extensive work of my predecessors at the Gallery to think deeply about what it could mean and look like to expand the parameters of what is possible through art.

AGGV: What can we expect to see more of in the future for AGGV’s Contemporary Art program and collection?

TL: Art shows us who we are. As the AGGV undertakes its new strategic visioning and planning process, there has been a lot of focus on the Collection. I will be reflecting on this and working with the curatorial team to strategically develop the Contemporary Art collection in ways that continue to address significant representational gaps to better tell the full story of the art of this region. For the Contemporary Art exhibition program, I am excited to explore creative ways to bring artworks from our collection into dialogue with temporary loans and new works through commissions. I am also excited to develop collaboratively curated projects that consider art and ideas across disciplines, as well as projects that look across the public realm, both inside and outside of gallery spaces, for presentation and engagement

AGGV: As the AGGV’s new Curator of Contemporary Art, our audiences and members are eager to hear about your future plans for exhibitions. Are there any themes or topics you are keen to work on?

TL: Folks will have to stay tuned to learn more about a few projects in the works that aren’t quite ready to be announced yet, but I am at the very beginning stages of thinking about how artists – as well as arts organizations – are addressing the climate crisis. I feel like this will be a long-term project that may require a variety of forms. Over the past couple years, I have also been co-developing an itinerant pedagogical platform called Moss Project: Curatorial Research + Learning Program, that actually began as a collaboration with Michelle Jacques, former AGGV Chief Curator, during her time at the AGGV. This program aims to support historically underrepresented curators alongside allied practitioners through peer-to-peer learning, inquiry, and mentorship and to equip emerging and established curators with resources and strategies to understand, set, and demonstrate new precedents rooted in anti-racism, decoloniality, and breaking down systemic barriers from within.

AGGV: What inspires you and the work you do?

TL: I am inspired by art as a catalyst towards learning, engagement, conversations, and understanding. In art and art museums, there is so much potential to bring people together through incredible and endless examples of creativity and innovation.


Image Credit: Toby Lawrence