A $2 million donation by Tim Fairfax to the National Gallery of Australia has created a new space where Canberrans and visitors of all ages, but especially the young, can indulge in hands-on art making, all for free.
And Canberrans can get their first look at a big open day at the gallery on Saturday.
The Tim Fairfax Learning Gallery and Studio will be officially launched on Friday at the National Gallery, another step towards making it a more welcoming and inviting institution, according to director Nick Mitzevich.
The opening of the new facilities will be celebrated on Saturday at an open day at the NGA from 10am to 4pm, with free gallery-wide art-making workshops, performances, family tours and talks.
Mr Mitzevich said he wanted Canberrans to use the new learning gallery and studio on a regular basis, whether it was for a tiny tots session in which toddlers learnt about colour, an art class for people with dementia or a family wanting to fill in a weekend doing something new and creative.
And due to the donation from Mr Fairfax, all the arts-based activities in the new studio would be free, linking in to current exhibitions, as well as what might be happening more broadly in Canberra with events such as Floriade and Enlighten.
Mr Mitzevich said Mr Fairfax, a director of the gallery's foundation, did not specify how the donation should be used but the studio and gallery reflected his championing of arts education and arts accessibility.
"Tim Fairfax is one of this country's most exciting philanthropists," Mr Mitzevich said. "He wants this funding to make an impact and to have relevance."
The former theatre on level two of the gallery was transformed into a light, bright space for art-making. Mr Mitzevich said there would be free programs for visiting and local school groups during the week and a focus on families on the weekend.
The gallery's education coordinator Anna Carig said the studio was all about hands-on art making, from painting to sculpting. There was also a large screen that could broadcast related material and two exhibitions a year would be held in the adjoining gallery.
Ms Carig said there would also be provision for art for people with special needs such as dementia or vision impairment to also participate.
Originally a teacher, Mr Mitzevich said it had been his passion over a 25-year career to make art more accessible and galleries more usable spaces, for all.
"Education is an important part of our agenda and to make an impact in the 21st century we need to have specialised learning facilities in the gallery, as well as dedicated online and travelling programs to share those learning opportunities with people throughout Australia," he said.