11 October 2019

New space for glorious mess, chaos and creativity at the National Gallery

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Tim Fairfax learning studio

Queensland school students are among the first to use the National Gallery’s new Tim Fairfax Learning Studio. Photos: Michelle Kroll, Region Media.

On any given day as many as 2000 children troop through the National Gallery. In any year, there are around 750,000 visitors, hailing from Yirrkala to Yarralumla. And now, there’s somewhere for them to get very, very messy.

The Tim Fairfax Learning Studio has a rubber floor, sinks, pinboards, and colour and movement everywhere. Already thronged with children in its first week of operation, it’s a magnet for creativity and the antidote to any mistaken notion that art galleries are hushed spaces.

It’s been made possible by a major gift from National Gallery of Australia Foundation Board member Tim Fairfax AC, a champion of arts education and arts accessibility. The accompanying Gallery Space will host two dedicated exhibitions a year, while the Studio is an intentionally flexible workspace for visitors of all ages.

Education coordinator Anna Carrig said the new Gallery Space and Studio will make the NGA an even more attractive destination for students.

“Students of all ages from across Australia come in for workshops, from pre-schoolers to tertiary level, responding to the artworks they see in the Gallery spaces. They’ll immerse themselves in creative work and put ideas into practice using materials from clay and pastels to installations,” Ms Carrig said.

“In order to unleash creativity you need the opportunity for people to experiment, to give them a blank canvas on which they can play.”

Tim Fairfax AC and NGA director Nick Mitzevitch

Education patron Tim Fairfax AC and NGA director Nick Mitzevitch a the launch of the Gallery’s new learning studio.

NGA director Nick Mitzevitch said there will also be mobile learning studio spaces throughout the Gallery.

“We want people to drop in on weekends and school holidays and explore. That’s a really important element of our program. We want people to bring their own creativity to life and take something away from the National Gallery,” Mr Mitzevitch said.

Education patron Tim Fairfax told the launch crowd that the late Betty Churcher had opened his eyes to the importance of widespread art education.

“She made me wonder what I could do to make a contribution to education in a national setting. If you take a child and give it creative teaching, I think that plays out through the rest of their lives. Good leaders, good people who make a difference in life have very often had a creative upbringing,” Mr Fairfax explained.

Tim Fairfax with children

Tim Fairfax with students at the launch of the new NGA learning studio.

Mr Mitzevitch says that the Fairfax family’s foresight and generosity as donors were critical to broad-based education ventures.

“Tim and Gina Fairfax show extraordinary support and leadership in their progressive approach to philanthropy in Australia,” he said.

“They are helping to bring our ambitions alive. The focus for this is on-site, but we are also moving towards being truly national and accessible from any point in Australia through digital education and learning. You can only bring a project like that to fruition with the great vision that Tim and Gina and other donors show.”

The Tim Fairfax Learning Gallery and Studio held its first community Open Day on Saturday, 12 October 2019. The Gallery and Studio are open 7 days a week from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Entry is free.

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