Well, it would appear I’m not the only Edmontonian excited about the opening of the new Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA).
As you probably know, the 10,000 free tickets the AGA was offering were snapped up right away. The same thing is likely to happen to the additional 5,000 that just became available.
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This is good news for the AGA and the city. Right? Maybe yes and maybe no.
The response to the free tickets is clearly indicative of a great deal of interest in seeing the inside of the new building. Whether it’s also indicative of a burning desire to see the exhibits that will be housed there is another matter entirely.
There’s every chance that the people who want to see the AGA for free may not be willing to return when there’s a charge for doing so. I haven’t seen any numbers to date, so I don’t know just what the new admission charge is going to be. But if it’s too high, it’s going to restrict just who actually gets to go to the AGA. This would certainly militate against the gallery’s stated intention to expand beyond its traditional base of support.
For the sake of argument, let’s say the admission charge will be similar to what you would pay for a first-run movie. I doubt many people who are struggling to make ends meet are going to want to pony up $30 or $40 to take the kiddos out to see works of art by people they likely have never heard of. It’s going to be easier and cheaper for them to rent a DVD and entertain the whole family on the cheap.
One thing the AGA could consider doing is offering free admission for one day a week. I’m talking about the whole day and not just a few hours in the evening. During the day, most of the people for whom an admission charge is no big deal are going to be at work. Free admission would benefit those who need it the most; low-income seniors, stay-at-home moms, and people in between jobs.
We have a new beautiful art gallery in Edmonton. A socially conscious approach to admission would be a good thing for this city. It would also help prevent the AGA from becoming yet another elitist cultural mausoleum.