The Beaverbrook Art Gallery is on its way to becoming a more inclusive space for students by June of 2017.
The massive half-finished structure, encased in a cocoon of plywood and steel staging, is currently under construction in downtown Fredericton.
Terry Graff, director, CEO and chief curator of the gallery, said the gallery is still active in the community despite the construction, and it has not seen a reduction in visitors.
“We let people know we were under construction and some people are really interested in the construction itself,” Graff said.
He said the newly renovated space will provide more access to programming for artists, new pieces and a more inviting place for students. Students have free access to the gallery with the presentation of a student ID.
“We want people to know that the gallery was a gift to the people of New Brunswick and that it belongs to everybody,” said Graff.
The gallery was first opened in 1959 and has been steadily growing its collection of works, from Canada and around the world, for almost six decades. Graff said he and his staff have a strong belief in education through the visual arts and what it can add to people’s lives.
“We think that visual arts should be at the centre of every curriculum,” Graff said.
Some of the new additions in the space will include a café as well as a lounge with a view of the St. John River through large glass windows. Graff said it is important to provide this space to artists.
“Artists can tell us things, they are prophets that can tell us about the past, present, future and ourselves,” Graff said. “We’re raising money for more than just bricks and mortar.”
According to Graff, the lion’s share of funding for the new space, now at an estimated $25-million, has come from charitable donations from the community.
The gallery also has a presence on campus. The Yellow Box Gallery, the small corner of the upper level in Dr. Daniel O’Brien study hall, brings in regular exhibitions for display, mainly from Atlantic Canadian artists.
William Forrestall, a fine arts professor and artistic contributor to Beaverbrook said it’s critical to promote local artists.
Forrestall has worked with the gallery to help bring the Yellow Box to St. Thomas University.
“All students have free membership to one of the greatest art galleries in Atlantic Canada,” Forrestall said.
This grants student access to Beaverbrook for the purposes of both enjoyment as well as academics. However, this is not something that is generally known to the student body.
Miata Misago, a fourth-year student at St. Thomas and front desk receptionist at Beaverbrook, said not many students take advantage of the gallery.
“I think it’s unfortunate that we don’t really advertise it because I don’t think students really know,” Misago said. “I get students that come in and are sometimes … surprised that they don’t have to pay.”