The Art Gallery of Alberta is offering free admission to everyone on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, beginning tonight, in an effort to get more people through their doors.

Admission fees will be waived between 5 and 8 p.m. on those days.

This is the second initiative the gallery has announced as part of its free-access strategy.

At the end of March the AGA announced it was waiving admission frees for children under the age of 18 and students as a way to drive up visitor numbers.

catherine crowston

The hope is to bring in about 300 people to the art gallery on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, said Catherine Crowston, AGA executive director on Tuesday. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)

"Over the last five weeks we've seen about 1,100 more people coming through," said Catherine Crowston, AGA executive director.

That is double the number of visitors over the previous five weeks, Crowston said.

The AGA has been offering free admission the last Thursday evening of each month, which saw about 300 people come in, she said.

The gallery will no longer be open on Thursday evenings with the new promotion coming on stream.

On a regular Thursday evening, the AGA would see 20 to 25 paying customers, she said.

"We're hoping we're going to draw numbers that are closer to 200 to 300 people on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, as we go into this new initiative," Crowston said.

Attendance numbers waning

The AGA has experienced rising operating costs since opening in 2010.

The gallery hosted 108,000 visitors in its first year, but averaged little more than 50,000 people annually since.

The City of Edmonton budgeted a total of $500,000 dollars to cover the AGA's free-access strategy, with half going to the gallery in 2017 and the remainder to come in 2018.


A pulled pork sandwich for $4 is on the new Tuesday tapas menu at Zinc restaurant in the art gallery. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)

Strong attendance numbers are necessary to draw corporate donations, said Coun. Scott McKeen.

"All of us want this facility to be a going concern," said McKeen.

"There may always be somewhat of a subsidy for art flagships like this, but one would hope at some point that this community would see it as enough of a draw that they would be supporting it," he said.

Along with the change in operating hours Zinc restaurant, which is housed in the AGA, is launching a Tuesday tapas menu.

Every item on the menu is priced under $20, with most items under $12.

A third initiative of the free-acess strategy will be announced in July, Crowston said.