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Province announces $40 million for 'overdue' Glenbow Museum renovations

Calgary Herald logo Calgary Herald 2020-02-22 Sammy Hudes
Jason Kenney wearing a suit and tie: Premier Jason Kenney announces the government's contribution to renovations of the Glenbow Museum on speaks during a news conference regarding a renovation project announcement at the Glenbow Museum on Friday, February 21, 2020. © Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia Premier Jason Kenney announces the government's contribution to renovations of the Glenbow Museum on speaks during a news conference regarding a renovation project announcement at the Glenbow Museum on Friday, February 21, 2020.

The provincial government is committing $40 million towards upgrading Calgary’s Glenbow Museum and preserving its collection.

Premier Jason Kenney, along with Culture Minister Leela Aheer and Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda, announced the province’s contribution toward the museum’s revitalization project on Friday, noting the investment would facilitate major upgrades and the complete renewal of the Glenbow.

Kenney called the overhaul “way overdue,” adding the safety of the museum’s collection “is threatened if we do not invest in renewing this building, this institution.”

“This is a moral obligation of our time and that is why even during challenging fiscal times, we have made this important decision,” the premier said.

“It is also an obligation of our generation to preserve the collection of this museum, which is now increasingly under threat because of a lack of investment in the structure of this building for nearly five decades.”

The downtown museum, which opened in 1966, aims to raise $115 million for its revitalization project.

a tall building in a city:  Exterior of the Glenbow Museum in downtown Calgary. © Courtesy, Glenbow Museum Exterior of the Glenbow Museum in downtown Calgary.

Kenney urged the federal government to match the UCP government’s commitment. He also called on the City of Calgary and private donors to help the museum reach its goal.

“I believe today’s commitment will make it much easier for the volunteer board to go out and find those contributions,” he said Friday. “We believe that we can revitalize this building and transform the museum into a world-class public art gallery in Calgary.”

But Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said there’s no money for the city to invest in the museum, taking aim at the province over municipal budget cuts.

“It’s a bit rich for the premier to say, ‘The city should chip in,’ when they cut our capital budgets by this huge amount,” Nenshi said. “Ultimately, it’s a great announcement. It’s an important cultural institution, it’s a cornerstone in our community. It’s terrific to see the provincial government getting away from their austerity mindset and investing in things that matter.”

Nenshi added that he hopes the funding announcement indicates more provincial investment in local arts and culture priorities in the future.

While the Glenbow has historically combined a museum, art gallery, library and archives under one roof, it is currently reframing its mandate to focus primarily on its role as an art museum.

Glenbow president and CEO Nicholas Bell said financial support from the government toward Alberta’s arts and culture sector would help create jobs and attract talent to the province.

He estimated the Glenbow’s renovation would lead to seven new permanent positions at the museum.

a group of people standing in a room:  Premier Jason Kenney and government ministers speak at a news conference at the Glenbow Museum on Friday. © Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia Premier Jason Kenney and government ministers speak at a news conference at the Glenbow Museum on Friday.

“Today’s announcement is transformational for the future of culture in Alberta. It not only allows us to address critical issues with our building and in the protection of the province’s collections. It also provides an unprecedented opportunity to revisit how this museum can better serve our community,” Bell said.

“Your support permits us to embark us on a new journey at Glenbow, to reimagine how these rich collections and the space can be activated in our drive to create one of the most ambitious and progressive museum programs in North America.”

Aheer said it’s crucial to preserve “our memories and our collective stories” at the institution.

“To know that they could be at risk for not having this infrastructure built is heartbreaking,” she said.

“We have a responsibility to make sure we protect and maintain this for future generations.”

shudes@postmedia.com

Twitter: @SammyHudes

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