History of Canadian Art Gallery/Art Museum Educators (CAGE)
By Pat Sullivan, May 2011
In October 1985, a group of Canadian art gallery educators, attending the Montréal conference of the Canadian Society for Education through Art (CSEA), formally organized their own professional association. Educators working in public art galleries had been chatting for a few years about the need to form such an association, recognizing the fact that their growing field possessed unique issues and concerns. At this point, the group described itself as “an independent group of professionals interested in furthering the cause of art museum/gallery education in Canada . The group is affiliated with the Canadian Society for Education through Art and the Canadian Museums Association (CMA).” Originating at a time when gallery education began to develop more professionally, CAGE has changed as the field expanded to become the broader, more inclusive one of public programs.
With no incorporation or staff, CAGE has continued since then through the volunteer efforts of its members. A significant early achievement was the production of Professional Standards for Art Gallery/Museum Educators (1991), a document that articulated standards of excellence for the profession. The collaboration for this arose through the networking fostered by the annual symposium, held in alternating regions, which features provocative keynote speakers, dynamic small group discussion and presentations of Case Studies by CAGE members. Selected through a peer adjudication process, the Case Studies sessions demonstrate the range and innovation of art gallery education in Canada .
For many years, the CAGE symposium was held just before the conference of larger organizations such as the CSEA, the CMA, the International Council on Museums, and the International Society for Education through Art. In 1994 at Nakoda Lodge, Morley, Alberta, CAGE met on its own for the first time, an acknowledgement that Canadian gallery educators had developed confidence in asserting their own goals and areas of inquiry. Since then, CAGE symposia have varied between those held in conjunction with a larger conference, as the practical benefits of obtaining travel money for two professional development opportunities in one trip cannot be ignored, and meeting as a self-sufficient group that can focus in its unique concerns. The most ambitious version of the latter format was in 2010, when CAGE held its first symposium outside of Canada, in Chicago; members benefitted greatly from productive exchange with fellow educators in that city’s rich array of museums.
In 2006 CAGE launched its website, www.cageart.ca, a still-modest forum for exchange and information. The number of members in CAGE, never large, has fluctuated. Many of the original members have retired, changed career, or have pursued new professional development opportunities. In recent years, reduced funding or travel moratoria have greatly impacted symposia registration. However, the organization is renewed each year with new members, proving that CAGE’s supportive peer network is vital for Canadian art gallery educators, many of whom work in small departments across this very large country.