In the very first gallery of the Royal Academy's Genius of Rome exhibition (until April 16), the walls - packed with canvases - seem alive with warmth and light. Deep colours - russets, browns and golds - feature in paintings of fruit, flowers and everyday people, represented with humour and honesty.
In 1592 Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, aged 21, arrived in Rome. This marked the beginning of a new style of painting - the baroque - and is the reason for the RA's decision to limit the choice of paintings by date:1592-1623. During this period Rome was a focus for artists, including Rubens, who were attracted by rich patronage, both ecclesiastical and secular. The flowering of interest in still-life subjects, landscapes and figures from the underside of society - rogues, tricksters and cardsharps - painted with a relish for realism, is opulently celebrated here.
To begin with, still life - regarded as inferior to figure painting - appears in a secondary role. Caravaggio's "Young Boy Peeling Fruit" may have been his first Roman painting, executed when he worked in the studio of Cavaliere d'Arpino. There is a sensuality about his young male figures, most evident in "The Boy with a Basket of Fruit" and "The Musicians", which is both realistic and attractive.
Caravaggio may be the star of the show, but there are other artists of considerable stature here too, in particular his rival, Annibale Carracci, Adam Elsheimer and Rubens. Their portraits, landscapes, classical and musical subjects mark the beginnings of secular art. There is a programme of public events, student seminars and family workshops. For details: 020 7300 8000; www.royalacademy.org.uk Art students at Chelsea College will soon be enjoying a new site in close proximity to Tate Britain, on Millbank in London. Having seen off a late bid from the Aga Khan, who wanted to establish an Ismaili cultural and educational centre there, Chelsea - at present spread over four sites - has found pound;37 million to buy the Royal Army Medical College. Stela McCartney, Terence Conran and Alexander McQueen are some of the glamorous supporters of a campaign to establish a creative quarter beside the Thames, just five minutes by pleasure boat from the House of Commons. By 2003, some 3,000 students will be on the doorstep of one of Britain's leading galleries.
Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate, says: "The prospect of having Chelsea students here when we are about to create new galleries and a new entrance is an extraordinary piece of serendipity." Museums and places of learning should, he said, be brought together more often.
The National Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, east London, has decided to bring environmental matters down to earth - right into children's lives, in fact. Together with the Centre for Alternative Technology in Powys, it has put together ourplan-it.com. The museum will be exhibiting games based on recycling, as well as animal and plant costumes that children can try on. Information: 020 8980 2415; www.museumofchildhood.org.uk The travelling Anne Frank exhibition will arrive in Bradford's city centre in April. It will be housed, aptly enough, in the new Life Force centre, which was established with the intention of promoting an understanding between cultures. Anyone who would like to train as a volunteer guide should contact Life Force general manager Hayley Lomas: 01274 224540 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about Life Force, visit the website: www.lifeforce.org.uk Any aspiring composers and librettists aged under 40 might do well to find out about the Genesis Foundation Opera Competition. A scenario for a chamber opera, with taped examples of the composer's work, should be submitted. A jury will choose six works for further development and each composerwriter team will receive pound;3,000, which may lead to a full commission. Three works will ultimately be performed in June 2003 as part of the London Almeida's opera season. Details: 020 7288 1741; email: email@example.com Heather Neill