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Family Sunday clay activities

In Our Community

As Canada’s only museum dedicated to ceramic art, the Gardiner is committed to providing everyone with access to its collections and programs as a means to share the inspiring and healing nature of clay.

The Gardiner offer programs and events that serve a diverse community and foster an exchange of ideas through the universal and highly accessible medium of clay. Combining art with function, clay enables people of all ages and backgrounds to engage with and appreciate art in a personal and intuitive way.

Support for the Gardiner’s community-centric programs allow donors to make a tangible impact – whether through providing arts education, nurturing emerging artists, or supporting people’s mental health.

For over a decade, the Gardiner has been at the forefront of therapeutic art sessions for children and adult survivors of intimate violence. Working in partnership with service organizations, alongside leading art therapists and ceramists, the Museum has provided a safe, welcoming environment for children, young people, and adults to explore their traumas and experience mutual recovery in a group setting.

Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic Expressive Arts Group

The Gardiner Museum Expressive Arts Group is for women survivors of child sexual abuse/incest, adult sexual assault, and intimate partner abuse. The women work with clay to produce a ceramic piece of art in reference to a common theme that is introduced in advance of their participation. Each year an exhibition of the artwork created is displayed to raise public awareness about violence against women in a sensitive, informed and compelling way.

Radius Children & Youth Services Expressive Arts Group

The Gardiner hosts a twelve-week ceramic arts group for children and youth who have experienced interfamilial sexual abuse. The group combines elements of art therapy, mindfulness practice, ceramics, community development, education, and social justice with the goal of breaking the silence that has traditionally surrounded sexual abuse. It empowers children and youth to share their stories through the creation of ceramic sculptures while they heal and navigate through difficult experiences. The workshops culminate in an exhibition of artwork that is open for public viewing.

Toronto Community Hepatitis C Program

The project Recruiting Allies Through Clay: Artists and Communities Co-Creating Equitable Access to High Quality Hepatitis C Virus Care was created for a group of vulnerable individuals that is often pushed to the margins of society. Participants create a clay self-portrait on four clay tiles; two of their tiles contributr to a group wall mural and the remaining two they keep. At the completion of the session, participants collaborate together to design an opening night art exhibit.


The Gardiner understands that clay can offer a creative experience like no other. By taking part in a clay class, each participant is engaging in a creative practice that contributes to the feeling of social inclusion and mental well-being [1]. Clay is tactile, it is not precious or fragile in an unfired state; it allows for play and changes to be made at any part of the process, yet requires immense concentration and discipline. It is this required focus that can remove the inhibitions of those working with clay. Participants can easily continue to create while conversing with fellow classmates leading to greater socialization.

1 Dr. Elaine Argyle, “Creative Practice in a Group Setting,” Journal of Mental Health and Social Inclusion 19 (3), July 2015.

The Gardiner Museum participates in a number of access oriented programs to ensure the broadest possible audience has access to its collections, exhibitions, and programs.

  • Youth 18 and under are always free!
  • Half-price admission every Wednesday evening from 4 – 9 pm
  • Museum + Arts Pass (MAP) Lets you and your family (2 adults & up to 5 children) explore the best of Toronto’s arts and cultural treasures for free. With your valid adult Toronto Public Library card, you can take out a pass for your family at select Toronto Public Library branches.
  • Institute for Canadian Citizenship Cultural Access Pass (CAP) provides free admission to new Canadian Citizens to the Gardiner Museum during their first year of citizenship. You can get your CAP by visiting the Institute for Canadian Citizenship website.

Clay on the Plaza

Each summer the Gardiner hosts children and young people from under-resourced neighbourhoods through our Clay on the Plaza program. The Museum provides a full-day experience at the Museum that includes an educational tour, lunch, and a clay class on our plaza in front of the Museum. The Gardiner’s intimate size is the ideal environment to enthuse children and young people about museums and culture as they receive a more personalized experience throughout their visit.

Schools & Community Access Fund

Each year the Gardiner welcomes 10,000 school children to its educational programs. With the guidance and encouragement of a ceramist and our educational staff team, children and young people from Grades K-12, work with clay in our custom-built clay studios. Each session has several curriculum links and offers a tactile art experience. The Gardiner’s Community Access Fund provides subsidies to schools and groups from under-resourced neighbourhoods that might otherwise be unable to visit the Museum.

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The Gardiner participates in several community events throughout the year to engage the broader public in the transformative qualities of working with clay. Our own public programming includes Family Days, which engage visitors in the tactile experience of making ceramics, as well as our Drop In Classes and clay courses. The national initiative, Culture Days, offers an annual opportunity to reach a large number of visitors and engage them in clay making.

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The Gardiner Museum works with community and cultural partners to bring new groups and visitors to the Museum. Through ongoing partnerships and those formed for specific projects, the Gardiner promotes creativity, social interaction, and well-being through clay. Our partners have included Soundstreams Canada, Human Rights Watch, imagineNATIVE film + media arts festival, The Next 36, Victoria College at the University of Toronto, Alliance Francaise, RPM.fm Indigenous Music Culture, Akin Projects, South Riverdale Community Health Centre, Crazy Dames, UnSpun Theatre, VIBE Arts, and many more.

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