‘Art incubator’ will be the first of its kind in Calgary

The community of South Calgary will soon be home to a new arts facility being developed by the Calgary Arts Development Authority and The Calgary Foundation.

The facility, which will be created in the long-time-closed King Edward School, will be the first of its kind in Calgary.

The school was sold by the Calgary Board of Education to both organizations with one guideline: that the old sandstone building keep its character. Closed years ago, the school had too many structural issues, and would no longer have enough enrolment to open back up.

“There’s nothing like it in Calgary and I think we’re sure lucky to have it,” said Marc Doll, president of the South Calgary Community Association. “The community as a whole is incredibly supportive.”

Deeter Schurig, co-ordinator of art space initiatives for the Calgary Arts Development Authority, added: “The arts are incredibly under-supported in Calgary in terms of facilities. There’s a real lack of affordable and sustainable spaces for artists to work in.”

The proposed centre is being described as a “hub” for artists and organizations to collaborate on their work, including a number of studio spaces for artists to work in. Tenants will rent out the spaces when they open up, although the Calgary Arts Development Authority and The Calgary Foundation don’t know exactly when that will be.

“We see it as an opportunity for multiple organizations to utilize the building to collaborate and fundamentally share resources,” said Schurig.

The long-vacant King Edward School in South Calgary is being planned as a new artistic hub for the city. The facility will be home to studio and workshop space, while still retaining the historic building’s original character.
Photo by: Nicole Butz
The development of the school also includes planning on how the rest of the site will be developed.

“Our project goals will be building live-work residences for artists. That will be the opportunity for the building to extend out into the residential neighbourhood,” said Schurig.

Doll added: “It is an up-and-coming trendy place to be. This fits right within the vision people have for the area.”

South Calgary is a community that sits between Crowchild Trail and 14th Street SW. The community association includes the Marda Loop area, Garrison Woods and Altadore.

“Something of this scale put into a community can completely change the culture of Marda Loop as it goes forward in the next 10, 20 years,” said Doll.

Creating an arts facility like this one has been something the Calgary Arts Development Authority and The Calgary Foundation have been looking at for a while, said Schurig. There are only a few similar facilities in Canada, one of which is in Edmonton.

“They’re kind of a growing phenomenon; they become very successful places indeed,” Schurig said about these arts facilities.

While Edmonton is working on a new building with studio spaces, which will be more similar to the King Edward School, they have had “live-work” space located downtown since 1999, said Linda Huffman, general manager of the Arts Habitat Association of Edmonton.

“It’s proven over the long term to be extremely popular,” said Huffman. She said that they have a waitlist for artists who have applied to be tenants, noting that visual artists tend to populate the spaces, although anyone is welcome.

Huffman said their developments tend to attract restaurants and cafes to the communities and enhance the area.

South Calgary Community Association president Doll said their community is very excited about such a similar development in their neighbourhood.

“The impacts can be enormous, and for the most part, incredibly positive,” he said.

nbutz@cjournal.ca