News / Edmonton

Updated: Art Gallery of Alberta launches weekly free nights

Gallery will now be open until 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with free general admission.


Starting this week, an evening at the art gallery doesn't have to cost a thing.

The Art Gallery of Alberta announced Tuesday it has extended its hours from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Tuesday and Wednesday, and is now offering free general admission on both days.

It's the second step in the gallery's push to draw more visitors, after introducing free admission for kids and students in late March – a move that brought in an extra 1,100 people over five weeks.

“We’re hoping to increase access for people who, either through habit don’t really come to art galleries, or because price might be a barrier,” said the gallery’s executive director Catherine Crowston.

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The gallery was previously only open in the evening on Thursdays, and offered one free evening a month that would see attendance jump from an average of 20-25 per night up to 300.

The initiative is likely to draw more visitors based on past numbers, but whether people will come back and pay remains to be seen.

“We’re seeing less people on paid admission days and way more people on free admission days,” Crowston said.

City council approved $500,000 to fund the initiative for two years.

Coun. Scott McKeen said kids in low-income families deserve a chance to visit the gallery, and noted that higher unpaid attendance could help pull in more corporate sponsors.

He also acknowledged, however, that art can be a challenge in Edmonton and while there may always be a subsidy for art flagships there is a limit to how much the city can prop up the gallery.

“Why do we have people who will spend a lot of money to go to an Oilers game and won’t spend even a fraction of that to come to the art gallery?” he said.

“Smarter people than me might have the answer. This is a different kind of experience, but I hope people take advantage and come down and try it.”

The gallery's restaurant, Zinc, is also launching a Tuesday tapas menu with everything priced under $20.

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