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How to Get Your Melbourne Culture Fix for Cheap (Or Free)

3 January 2019 by Maxim Boon
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If you think the arts are just for those with deep pockets, Melbourne begs to differ. The city has plenty of ways you can be an avid culture vulture without breaking the bank – if you know where to look. And it just so happens, we do.

Go on a street art odyssey through Melbourne’s laneways.
Melbourne is famous for its street art, with barely a brick unpainted anywhere within the CBD or the surrounding suburbs. And these are not mere graffitied scribblings either. Some of the most revered street artists in the world have chosen to leave their mark on Melbourne, with the city’s laneways most frequently favoured as their gallery of choice. In the centre of town, AC / DC Lane (named after the legendary Aussie rock band) is one of the must-see streets, as is nearby Hosier Lane and Caledonian Lane. Fitzroy and Collingwood are also epicentres for street art. Be sure to see the famous mural by legendary New York artist Keith Haring, by the Melba Spiegeltent on Johnston Street, and the breathtaking, recently completed mural by hometown hero Adnate at the Collingwood Housing Estate, which at more than 20-storeys high, ranks as the tallest painting in the Southern Hemisphere.

Check out the free exhibitions at the Arts Precinct’s galleries.
Art lovers can their fix with a gallery-crawl from Federation Square to Sturt Street, exhibition-hopping through Melbourne’s finest collections. Starting at the Ian Potter Centre, discover the world’s first gallery dedicated exclusively to Australian Art, which has a number of free exhibitions year-round. Right next door, the Australian Centre For The Moving Image (ACMI) is also free to enter. In addition to its beautifully crafted exhibition spaces, you can catch iconic arthouse movies for as little as $12 a pop. Make the short walk over Princes Bridge to the Southbank, and you can take in one of the small yet mighty exhibitions in the surprisingly versatile gallery space at the Arts Centre Melbourne. Recent showings have included a retrospective of set and costume designs from the Arts Centre’s archives, an exhibition of the fashion of Kylie Minogue, and a showcase of music memorabilia collected by the Australian Music Vault. The monolithic, bluestone-clad National Gallery Of Victoria, on St. Kilda Road, is the city’s largest institution. It has multiple free exhibitions running at any one time, including a superb permanent collection, a sculpture garden, and an annual architectural commission. Heading towards Sturt Street, the most recent addition to Melbourne’s gallery scene, Buxton Contemporary, champions bold, experimental work, while the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), a little further up the road, supports new work by both homegrown talents and major international commissionees. Entry to both is completely free.

Visit one of the city’s boutique theatre venues.
Melbourne boasts a thriving independent theatre scene, where you can see some of the country’s finest performers for a fraction of the cost of tickets to the major houses. In St Kilda, Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre and Theatre Works both focus on intimately staged, thoroughly accomplished shows of contemporary and new work, while the Alex Theatre offers more accessible family fare. Arts House and its sister venue The Meat Market, both in North Melbourne, and The Substaion in Newport, all champion experimental productions, both Australian-made and internationally imported. In the CBD, Fortyfivedownstairs has cemented a reputation as one of the most thrilling hotbeds of new theatre in the country, presenting freshly penned premieres and innovative productions of existing plays. While its principal venue may have tragically burned down in 2018, La Mama Theatre continues to support fringe-scale work in other performance spaces across Melbourne. Be sure to keep an eye on the city’s many receiving houses too – such as Hawthorne Arts Centre, Chapel Off Chapel, Northcote Town Hall, and Gasworks Arts Park – where you can enjoy many a stellar show on a shoestring budget.

Snag last minute cheap tickets to blockbuster productions
The Friday Forty is by far the cheapest way to get your hands on the hottest ticket in town currently: “Harry Potter And The Cursed Child,” playing the Princess Theatre from January. Enter the Friday Forty on TodayTix any time Monday through Friday at 1PM, for the chance to win $40 tickets ($80 total for Parts 1 and 2) to the show. There are 40 tickets available for each performance, and the recipients will be announced on, you guess it, Friday.