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Kids’ play gets a makeover at the NGA

Emma Macdonald

Not many children have the patience or temperament to endure art galleries for long stretches.

But the National Gallery of Australia could fast become this city’s hottest ticket for kids, now that it has revealed its state-of-the-art play space.

NGA Play will ensure little art-lovers will have the room, stimulation and hands-on creative experience to want to make the gallery a regular haunt.

Just in time for the school holidays! And did we mention entry is free and it is open seven days from 10am to 5pm?

NGA Play promises nearly 500 square metres of children’s activities that revolve around the upcoming Versailles: treasures from the palace exhibition.

Want to dress up as Marie-Antoinette, pose as Louis the XIV, craft your own chandelier or weave a tapestry? Every effort has been made to make each activity fun, as well as an immersion in French culture.

So rather than climbing down from the Marie-Antoinette or Louis the XIV cut-outs, you slide down, and when you reach for a pencil it will come out of the mouth of a giant gold-painted frog.

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Adriane Boag, the NGA’s Program Producer, said every effort had been made to stimulate children and to unleash their artistic and creative side.

The space caters for all ages, from thick green carpet and soft green blocks making a topiary garden for the barely one-year-olds, to a replica Latona Fountain and a stunning hall of mirrors (non-shattering glass of course) for the bigger kids, the space also has a program room for specific activities and school holiday programs. It is open and airy with a lot of bench and chair space for harried mums and dads who will relish a chance to sit down while the kids go wild.

For NGA Deputy Director Kirsten Paisley, the space is a departure from the traditional art gallery messages of “do not” – as in do not touch, do not run, and do not yell.

That all changes in NGA Play, where children will be completely free to just go explore, make their own crown, create their own fountain on a special app, or take part in structured group activities under the guidance of gallery educators.

“This mini-palace provides all ages with a  unique way to experience the exhibition and to learn about a defining time in French history,” said Ms Paisley.

And if children should ever tire of the Rococo styling and palatial themes of Versailles, NGA Play will be completely remade to coincide with a new theme every six months, ensuring generations of fun.

the essentials
What: NGA Play
Where: Ground floor at the entrance to the gallery, formerly where the shop was.
When: Open seven days from 10am-5pm
How much: Free
Website: nga.gov.au/Play

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Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author

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