Living: Meet Modern Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum

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by Theresa Wojtasiewicz

museum n. A place or building for preserving and exhibiting works of art, scientific objects, curiosities. (Funk & Wagnalls Desk Dictionary, 1986)

Imagine visiting Cuba, Italy, Korea, Japan, China, South Asia, Europe, and North, Central and South America all in one day. Impossible?

Not if you visit the Royal Ontario Museum!

Since opening its doors in 1914, the Royal Ontario Museum (affectionately known as “the ROM”) has housed and displayed thousands of objects from its numerous collections for the education and enjoyment of the public. From prehistoric fossils to furniture to fashion, the ROM has shown us the world from its earliest beginnings, in nature and in the ancient civilizations which developed into the modern world we live in today.

There is much we can learn from our distant past; but what will those looking back at us 200 years from now think about the culture we have today?
The ROM’s Institute for Contemporary Culture has an answer for that. It is committed to bringing in exhibitions of art, giving lectures and holding film series about today’s cultures and societies and how they relate to each other and to the natural world. For newcomers to Canada, and especially for you who have settled in Toronto (home to just about every culture in the world) these programs and exhibitions offered by the ROM are also a good way to learn more about other cultures, and will help you teach your children about your own culture, as well.

Right now at the ROM is an exhibition of the works of the leading contemporary Cuban artist Carlos Garaicoa. Using different kinds of objects and materials, Garaicoa shows us through his art how he sees the difference between what the revolution promised and what conditions are like in Cuba today. He looks at the architecture, cities, politics, history and people of Cuban society. Garaicoa was born in 1967; he grew up under Fidel Castro’s regime and has seen the effects that the fall of Soviet communism has had on Cuba. We see Cuba through his eyes.

Opening on October 28th is another cultural exhibition: Italian Arts & Design: The 20th Century. This exhibition will have almost 300 objects including furniture, ceramics, glass, textiles, paintings, sculpture, photography and architectural drawings. There is even a Vespa! (We call them “scooters” – like small motorcycles.) Many of these objects have never been on public display. The architects, artists and designers represented in this exhibition looked at their modern, industrial Italy and translated what they saw into their products, and, as a result, created much discussion on the effect culture has on art and design.

The new wing of the ROM is still under construction and is scheduled to open in June 2007. In the meantime, exhibitions like those mentioned in this article and the World Culture Galleries housing collections of objects from China, Japan, Korea and Canada’s First Peoples are open to the public. Take a day (or two or three!) to meet modern – and ancient – culture at the ROM. The world is waiting for you!

Carols Garaicoa runs until December 31, 2006.

Italian Arts & Design: the 20th Century opens October 28, 2006 and runs until January 7, 2007.
Admission to the above exhibitions is included with general museum admission tickets. Adults: $18; Students & Seniors with ID: $15; Children $12; Infants (4 years of age and under) are admitted free. Currently, the ROM offers reduced admission rates on Friday nights. For more information about ticket prices, current and upcoming exhibitions and galleries, please visit the ROM website at www.rom.on.ca.

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