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Gardiner Museum

Free Access Campaign

Free Access Campaign

A Workshop Series and Feature Exhibition
Presented by the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic
and the George R. Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art

February 7 to april 28, 2013

For the last ten years the Gardiner Museum and the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic have partnered to offer an engaging series of Art Therapy groups for women who have experienced violence. Since 2003, clients of the Schlifer Clinic have worked with a professional artist (Susan Low-Beer) and an art therapist (Suzanne Thomson) in the Museum’s clay studios to sculpt their trauma narratives in clay, transforming their pain and reconnecting with their resilience and strength. In 2013 these Art Therapy groups will culminate in a landmark exhibition, Transformation by Fire, designed to raise public awareness about violence against women in a sensitive, informed and compelling way, and to provide accessible and inspiring real life role models for anyone who has either experienced or witnessed violence.

Transformation by Fire will take place from February 7 to April 28, 2013 in the George R. Gardiner Exhibition gallery, a large beautiful space (3,500 square feet) usually dedicated to the work of historically significant ceramic art and/or critically acclaimed artists. The exhibition will be supported by a full schedule of programs (workshops, lectures, tours, and films) that provide greater understanding about the issue of violence against women.

The exhibition will be coordinated by Rachel Gotlieb, Senior Curator, Gardiner Museum; Suzanne Thomson, art therapist; and Susan Low-Beer, artist. Lynne Jenkins, Director of Clinical Counselling Service, Barbra Schlifer Clinic, will provide clinical advice throughout the project to ensure this difficult issue is explored in a sensitive and compelling way.


Access Initiative

The Gardiner is seeking the support necessary to offer free admission during this exhibition to ensure there are no barriers to entry, and so that anyone who is interested in this issue, or who has been impacted by violence against women, can attend.  

The Gardiner Museum is committed to playing a vital and contributing role in the larger community. In order to ensure that the broadest possible public has access to Transformation by Fire the Museum is working with the Barbra Schliffer Clinic to raise the $25,000 required to offer free admission while this exhibition is on view. 

The Museum is working with the Clinic to engage 100 lawyers to donate $250 to raise the $25,000 required to make this exhibition accessible to everyone. Your support will help to promote awareness of this important social justice issue, and foster a supportive community of women who have experienced violence.  It will also help to inform the broader community so that more people know how to respond to violence in a sensitive, responsible and effective manner.


Barbra Schlifer

The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic was opened in memory of Barbra Teena Schlifer, a young lawyer who was murdered in Toronto on the day of her call to the Bar of Ontario on April 11, 1980. Barbra Schlifer was returning home after celebrating her call to the Bar of Ontario. It had been a night of dreams fulfilled; the start of a bright future. She was full of excitement over the fact that she and her friends Patricia Ashby and Frances Rapaport planned to open a law practice together. They were young, energetic and committed to social justice law and to representing people who were abused, oppressed and marginalized. 

But that night Barbra Schlifer was brutally sexually assaulted and murdered in the basement stairwell of her Beaches apartment building. Her senseless death sent shock waves through Toronto and across the country. About 600 women marched in the Beaches demanding safer streets for women. The Toronto police offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to her killer.

Barbra’s death forever changed the lives of those who were close to her. Yet, out of this terrible event, a new dream was born, fostered by Barbra’s friends, which would commemorate her life and make the difference that Barbra had hoped she would make as a lawyer. On April 11, 1985, then Mayor Eggleton declared Barbra Schlifer Day in Toronto and in September 1985, the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic opened its doors. The Clinic was designed as a holistic, comprehensive and coordinated service where women who had experienced violence could receive legal and counseling services.


Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic

The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic provides free legal, counselling, interpretation, information, and referral services for women who are experiencing or have experienced violence including intimate partner assault, incest/childhood sexual abuse, and adult sexual assault and other forms of violence. In Barbra Schlifer’s memory, the Clinic is committed to the belief that a response to the issue of violence against women must address the individual needs of women, systemic change, and social justice. The Clinic currently receives referrals from countless community-based agencies, as well as medical, legal and criminal justice professionals, religious organizations and individuals concerned about violence against women, and more than 3,600 women were helped last year.

For more information on the activities of the Schlifer Clinic please visit their website, www.schliferclinic.com


Gardiner Museum

The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art opened in 1984, when Toronto philanthropists George and Helen Gardiner gave a purpose-built building and their outstanding ceramics collection to the people of Canada. The original Gardiner collection includes extraordinary Ancient American pottery as well as significant examples of European pottery and porcelain dating from the 15th to the 19th centuries. Located in Toronto’s Yorkville district, the Gardiner re-opened in 2006 after a $20 million expansion and renovation.  It has grown to become one of the world’s great specialty museums.

The Gardiner Museum is a vital public institution with expanding permanent collections, an active schedule of exhibitions and programs, and a diverse and growing audience, including 70,000 annual Museum visitors, 1,200 member households, and 16,000 program participants including 10,000 school children who participate in the Museum’s hand’s on art education classes.


PHOTO: Allan Nackan

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