The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is celebrating 20 years of its Sharing the Museum program. Since launching in 1999, it has enabled over 275,000 vulnerable people to enjoy a broad range of free arts activities created just for them. Thanks to Bell’s renewed support through a major donation of $1 million over five years, even more people who are usually excluded from cultural experiences can enjoy the benefits of art.
Sharing the Museum is the result of expertise-sharing between the MMFA’s teams and over 600 non-profit organizations, CLSCs and hospitals, and has become an international model for museum initiatives in accessibility and inclusion. This program, which has constantly evolved and expanded to new audiences since its creation, embodies the MMFA’s humanist and socially committed vision of a museum that is open and accessible to everyone, including people who are marginalized due to social, economic or health factors.
Through the program, the Museum offers many free activities – such as guided tours of the collections, art workshops led by mediators or art therapists, and special concerts – that are adapted to the needs and interests of people experiencing hardship. Organized both at the Museum and even outside its walls, these activities are opportunities for people to make friends, learn and create in a welcoming and safe space. They also stimulate the participants’ creativity and help them regain their self-confidence.
Sharing the Museum is designed for children, adults and seniors from disadvantaged communities and neighbourhoods, at-risk youth, immigrants and refugees, women in crisis, people who are developing literacy skills, people experiencing homelessness, people with physical or mental health issues or with cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer's, people with physical or intellectual disabilities and family caregivers. [See appendix for more information]
The program has also been the subject of research articles published in journals such as The Arts in Psychotherapy and The Journal of Museum Education. In 2018, Concordia University researcher Darla Fortune carried out a study on the impact of this program from the standpoint of inclusion and a sense of belonging and found that the program’s participants feel accepted and valued.
A person experiencing homelessness shared their experience: “Often we suffer from isolation and it’s hard to get away from that. By participating in a project like this on at the Museum, we manage to communicate with others. Doing a creative activity helps us get back into a childlike experience. Creating gives us the impression that we can take control of ourselves.”
“Thanks to a multitude of initiatives like the Sharing the Museum program created 20 years ago, community groups along with increasingly diverse audiences are visiting our collections, temporary exhibitions and educational spaces. The MMFA has become their Museum: an environment of plurality that learns from its visitors and transforms itself to reflect them. On behalf of everyone at the MMFA, I would like to thank all of our front-line professionals and our community partners who have made it possible for this visionary project to grow so that the Museum can open its doors to as many people as possible,” said Nathalie Bondil, Director General and Chief Curator of the MMFA.
“I echo Nathalie Bondil’s sentiments and extend my heartfelt thanks to our teams and all our partners, who pool their expertise in a spirit of caring to develop activities that encourage self-expression and self- confidence. Every day, our mediators see the real impact that arts experiences can have on vulnerable people, and this motivates us to make art accessible to everyone,” added Thomas Bastien, Director of Education and Wellness at the MMFA.
Bell: an essential partner of Sharing the Museum
A MMFA partner since 2010 and a major patron of this program for the past five years, Bell has announced that it will renew its partnership until 2023 with a donation of $1 million over the next five years. This generous contribution will enable the Museum to maintain and multiply its community and wellness projects.
“Bell is proud to renew our support of the internationally recognized Sharing the Museum program at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts," said Martine Turcotte, Bell’s Vice Chair, Québec. “I want to congratulate the Museum and its partners on 20 years of enriching the lives of Québec’s most vulnerable citizens and building community connections through art and socially inclusive cultural programming.”
Thanks also to the Fondation de la Chenelière and the Fondation J.A. DeSève for their invaluable support of Sharing the Museum, as well as the Trottier Family Foundation, DeSerres, Canada Life, Borden Ladner Gervais and the Fondation Jacques et Michel Auger.
—Montreal Museum of Fine Arts