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Family Day at the Vancouver Art Gallery.Anita Bonnarens/Vancouver Art Gallery

Confession: When I recently visited the Vancouver Art Gallery to walk through a couple of exhibitions, I became sidetracked by a different show aimed at a slightly younger set.

Okay, maybe not slightly. The exhibition is Kids Take Over, which the VAG’s education department – and local students – collaborated with curators to create. It’s a dynamic show with lots of eye-popping colours and cool-looking artwork by the likes of Ken Lum and Robert Rauschenberg.

Works also include Manitoba-born Gathie Falk’s seminal ceramic fruit pyramids, Haida artist Guud San Glans Robert Davidson’s monumental painting Octopus (2014) and Inuk artist Annie Pootoogook’s colourful family portrait Listening to the Radio (2005-06), made with pencil crayon on paper. Kid-friendly yes, but grown-ups like it, too.

Young people are a big focus of the gallery at the moment – made clear not just by this show, but with an announcement on Wednesday: The VAG will offer free admission for all visitors 18 and under.

“We hope that this program will encourage families to see the gallery not just as a special outing, but as part of their usual activities,” Diana Freundl, the VAG’s interim chief curator, told The Globe and Mail.

The free admission policy goes into effect July 1 and will stay in place for the next five years, essentially until the gallery moves into a new, purpose-built facility – at least, that’s the plan. The complimentary admission follows a $1-million donation from the April 1 Foundation of Vancouver. (The family behind the foundation wants to remain anonymous with this donation.)

The VAG joins a growing list of galleries in Canada increasing access to youth by removing the cost of a ticket. They include the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Remai Modern in Saskatoon, the Audain Art Museum in Whistler and the Glenbow Museum in Calgary – which offers free admission, period, at its current satellite location and will continue to do so when it reopens after a renovation in 2024.

“I just feel like we’ve seen a diminishment in art education nationally over many years,” VAG director Anthony Kiendl said. “In this world that is so troubled and full of problems … we need to somehow go to the next level in creativity. And I feel like art galleries and museums are uniquely positioned to provide these resources and this context for people.”

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