Australia’s first children’s art library will be established in the Art Gallery of NSW, part of refurbishment plans for the original Walter Liberty Vernon-designed building.
The library for young artistic minds will open in mid-2022, bearing the name of its philanthropic donor, who for the moment remains a mystery.
The literary space has been made possible by the relocation of the Yiribani Gallery to the new contemporary art galleries of Sydney Modern due to open in late 2022.
Australia’s first art library for children will open in 2022.Credit:Produced by Mogamma for Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects © Mogamma
On the shelves will be books about artists, by artists and for artists, books about art history and books featuring acclaimed illustrations.
Childhood books by artists including Margaret Olley and Grace Crowley will be able to be accessed through the library along with the childhood notebook of celebrated 20th-century artist Grace Cossington Smith, held by the National Art Archives, which will be co-located with the children’s library.
Work on the Sydney Modern has reached its highest point, the roof of the entrance pavilion, from which exhibition spaces will flow towards Woolloomooloo Bay.
Outside the original Art Gallery of NSW building, a makeover of the forecourt is underway that will transform it into a new pedestrian plaza with polished stone reflection pools reclaimed from front parking bays.
Inside, architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer are transforming Lower Level 3 into a precinct for art scholarship, research, and education.
The new Edmund and Joanna Capon Library, with a double-height reading room, and the National Art Archive will be housed there alongside the children’s library.
The gallery’s head archivist Steven Miller said the children’s art library will launch with about 1000 titles.
“The books we have selected are ones that we want children to use freely so we will incorporate some of our rare and older collections in programs and displays, such as books that artists themselves made as children.
“Like all the Art Gallery’s library collections, the Children’s Art Library is not a borrowing library. We’d like everything to be enjoyed, read and handled in the space – not for children to come and find that something they really like is out on loan.
“The Children’s Art Library is not a traditional reference library, which can sound intimidating, but there will be staff nearby for children to ask questions of and engage with as they want and need. And of course children are not confined to this space. If they want to browse and use any of the other collections, we welcome this.”
The library is modelled on the Nolen children’s art library at the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the children’s art library at the Islamic Arts Museum in Kuala Lumpur.
TZG director Peter Tonkin, said: “In designing the library for kids, we imagined engaging, child-scaled spaces that could ignite their natural delight in art.
“We created child-sized ‘cubby houses’ for reading, tables for engaged learning, and a really big comfortable lounge for parents to read with their kids, and older children to relax with a book.”
Across the Domain, the State Library of NSW’s children’s library was opened in 2019 to great acclaim, part of efforts to open up the library’s collection of art, manuscripts, and rare books to the public and especially families.
Art Gallery of NSW deputy director Maud Page said the gallery’s children’s art library has been designed to provide a sense of wonder for children and their families.
The library will cater for children living with disabilities and include books by Indigenous artists and writers and in languages other than English.
Page said it would program sensory and tactile experiences from the archives, performances, and new artist-led art-making experiences.
“In addition to exploring our gallery spaces or exhibitions – or as a dedicated visit to the library – this will be a place where above all children can be inspired, and look, read, learn and imagine,” Page said.
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