Heritage building becomes arts hub, expanding creative reach
The previously abandoned King Edward School, which closed in 2001 due to low enrollment, will host a mixed-arts installation called Phantom Wing this week from Sept. 24-29.
From the same creators of Wreck City, Phantom Wing is a pre-demolition art event that includes works from more than 30 artists and performers. The installation will take place in the 1950s and 1960s addition of the school, which will be demolished in November as it contains asbestos — only the heritage sandstone structure will remain.
Metal sculpture artist Joanne MacDonald, who will be showing her art at Phantom Wing, says that she supports the city using spaces before it destroys them.
“It is a nice way to pay respect to the school and honour it before they change it to something else,” MacDonald says.
The name Phantom Wing comes from the idea of the phantom limb syndrome — the feeling that a missing limb is still attached to the body and a sensation most often felt by amputees. Similarly, the Phantom Wing event was “designed to resonate long after the building is severed from its adjoining sandstone counterpart.”
But as the sandstone building will remain, cSPACE Projects, a non-profit real estate enterprise that aims to promote and develop more mixed-art collaborative workspaces in the city, will transform the school into a multi-disciplinary arts hub.
President and CEO of cSPACE Projects, Reid Henry, says the new hub will help give artists more affordable space.
“You go visit Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, and they’ve all got a great ecology of small spaces [for arts],” Henry says. “The cost of living and working here are pretty tough for the creative community.”
“Beyond the space, we’re also really interested in creating an environment and set of platforms for a whole bunch of different collaborations,” he says. “We want to give [artists] the tools to have viable professional lives,”
Purchased in February 2012 from the Calgary Board of Education for more than $8 million, the project is estimated to cost $31 million — including the purchase of the land. Financial contributions were made by multiple levels of government and from organizations such as The Calgary Foundation.
Though currently fundraising, cSPACE expects to raise a remaining $10 million through corporate and individual partners.
When completed, the 45,000-square-foot facility will include studios, performance areas, exhibition spaces, live-work areas and a community commons for open public gatherings.
Henry says, “We’re just thinking about every single nook and cranny of the building that can be turned into something else.”
cSPACE also provided temporary accommodation to artists who have been affected by the flood this past summer by giving them workspaces and a place to store their artwork.
One of the artist-curators for Phantom Wing, Natalie MacLean, says that the location of the new arts hub is ideal because it spreads art outside the city centre.
“Most of the places to show art have been centralized downtown and it’s been moving out. I think that’s a really exciting thing,” MacLean says.
Kristen Hungate, neighbour to the project, says she believes the project is a great addition to the community. The positive traffic is welcome as there was previously a high police presence around the area due to suspicious activity, she adds.
When completed, the arts hub will inherit the King Edward name, but will evolve to eventually become the cSPACE King Edward.
The project is expected to be finished and open for late 2015.
Until then, Phantom Wing will run from Sept. 24-29 and will feature large-scale artworks, performance art and installation art. For a preview of the event, visit our photo gallery.