Michael Audain has a long-stated goal of fostering a love for art in children. Having grown up in Victoria without access to a public art gallery, the developer and philanthropist was adamant the Whistler museum that bears his name be free to anyone 16 and under. Starting Thursday, Jan. 4, the museum will extend that free admission to 17 and 18 year olds as well.
"We heard the feedback from the community and agreed we needed to remove any barrier to youth exploring the Museum," said acting director, Brianna Beacom, in a release. "Including 17 and 18 year olds in our free admission program was the perfect way for the Museum to continue to strengthen our commitment to families, the local community and visitors to Whistler."
Adult art lovers don't have to worry either: moving forward, all guests of museum members will receive 10 per cent off the regular admission price of $18. Also, memberships that are purchased or renewed in the month of January will have two months added to the yearly membership term free of charge.
The announcement comes on the heels of a $2-million donation to the museum's permanent endowment fund, which led the board of directors to immediately double the fund's original target of $25 million to $50 million.
A larger endowment fund means the board and staff "can look at all sorts of different shows, bigger shows, we can look at admissions, we can look at sponsoring different events," explained Audain museum board chair Jim Moodie in a November interview with Pique.
The Audain recently launched two new monthly events aimed at deepening guests' appreciation and understanding of the museum's extensive selection of B.C. art.
First Friday invites guests on the first Friday of each month, from 5 to 7 p.m., for "an evening of casual, lively and informative programs" that could include presentations, workshops, quizzes, and more on the museum's permanent collection and visiting exhibits.
The theme for this Friday's event is "Mountain Master Minds," focusing on the museum's current exhibition, Stone and Sky: Canada's Mountain Landscape. Starting at 5 p.m., teams of up to four people can register to answer trivia questions about the exhibit, with a chance to tour the works. Prizes will be awarded to the top three teams.
Third Thursday, meanwhile, will take place, naturally, on the third Thursday of every month, offering a chance to learn more about the Audain's permanent collection and the artists and stories behind it.
The Jan. 18 edition will focus on the B.C. artists featured in both Stone and Sky and the Audain's permanent collection, including Emily Carr and Gordon Smith.
Between the change to admission and the new monthly events, it seems clear staff is looking for new ways to engage the community and boost visitation after its first calendar year attracted 55,671 attendees.
Shortly after the museum released its yearly financials spanning March 2016 to March 2017, it was announced that inaugural executive director Suzanne Greening would be leaving the museum.
In November, the board notified Greening they would not be renewing her contract once it was due up in March 2018. She chose not to finish out the remainder of her contract.