The project will completely revamp the interior and exterior of the building
After securing $94 million in funding from three levels of government, the team behind the Glenbow Reimagined campaign is appealing to the public and private sectors for an additional $40 million to complete its ambitious redesign and renovation of the 46-year-old downtown museum and gallery space.
A YouTube video released Thursday morning outlined this next step in fundraising and offered a virtual tour that showed the schematic design and broad creative concepts for the project, which is expected to be completed by 2024.
In total, the money raised will cover the $115-million capital costs for the renovation and put extra money into the coffers for operational costs and future programming. Alberta will contribute $40 million to the project, as will the federal government. The City of Calgary will contribute $14 million.
The project will completely revamp the interior and exterior of the building and is expected to include a new entrance on the corner of 1st Street and Stephen Avenue, a new retail space, a street-level restaurant, redesigned exterior street front along 9th, a fifth-floor rooftop patio and open public space accessible from Stephen Avenue, among other elements. There will also be more gallery spaces and common areas within the facility. Generally, the design will open up the building and move away from the claustrophobic, concrete-bunker look designed in the 1970s.
“The design that we’re living in right now — with its back to the city, with its lack of natural light, with its lack of a front door — was a design that was felt to be appropriate for Calgary in the early 1970s,” said Nicholas R. Bell, president and CEO of the Glenbow Museum.
“Calgary in the 1970s and Calgary in the 2020s are different cities. We want to open this up and turn it into a space that feels more inclusive, that invites you in so you can navigate it intuitively and that feels warm and bright and like a place you want to spend time in.”
The finer details have yet to be determined, but open-house events are planned for mid-July. Research will also be conducted using focus groups. There is a new national Indigenous advisory group at the museum and consultations will continue with the Blackfoot community about the future of Glenbow’s Blackfoot gallery.
For now, the museum will reopen its second-floor galleries on Saturday after months of being closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. On Aug. 29, it will close again to facilitate the renovations, although a “pop-up” museum space will be opened downtown in February to host exhibitions.
Bell, who took over as CEO and president from Donna Livingstone in November 2019, said the deteriorating condition of the building accelerated renovation plans, offering an opportunity for the Glenbow to completely overhaul its design, programming and accessibility and become a model for the rest of the country.
“Canada needs best-practice leaders to help us understand what the museum should be like for the 21st century: How it is that we will build an equitable space; how it is that we demonstrate the values held in conjunction with reconciliation; how it is that we work equitably with our Indigenous partners; how it is we tell stories that we know are meaningful to Canadians,” Bell said.
“Every museum in Canada wants to do that, but we think we can do it perhaps at an accelerated rate because this renovation is giving us the opportunity to scratch this museum down to the base layer and start over in such a way that we think we can get there.”