As one of the last cities to introduce a contemporary art centre, Calgary is finally catching up

Calgary is one of the only major cities in North America that does not currently have a space dedicated to contemporary art, but Contemporary Calgary is attempting to change that.

The organization, the result of local art communities coming together — the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, the Art Gallery of Calgary and the Institute of Modern and Contemporary Art — has already integrated itself into the city, with the art expected to move into the planetarium in September. This will be the first space of its kind.

With the City of Calgary behind the new venture, plans have been set into motion to move Contemporary Calgary into the old planetarium by the fall of 2016.

Yves Trépanier, co-owner and founder of TrépanierBaer Gallery, looks forward to the new project. As a member of the Board of Directors, he is enthusiastic about what the future holds.

“Contemporary Calgary is a progressive, forward-looking organization that will serve Calgarians and our cultural community well into the future, and in ways the community is not being served now,” Trépanier says. He also expects the project to create a multitude of opportunities in the city.

The lack of representation for contemporary art in Calgary is one of the biggest concerns Trépanier has about the city, something he expects to change with this new public venture.

“The citizens of this city, and most importantly our artists, are not part of the great national and international conversations about art. We are missing many opportunities to be in conversation with our fellow citizens, both in Canada and around the world about all kinds of cultural issues.”

Trépanier believes that without a project like Contemporary Calgary, the city will remain isolated from Canadian and global conversations surrounding art and culture.

Julia Meyer is a typical member of the community that Contemporary Calgary is trying to attract: young, enthusiastic about the arts and willing to attend events in support of that community. Meyer looks forward to the possibilities that can come from the project.

“I think that something like this can get people excited about art,” Meyer says. “And in our city, young people are always looking for something to do, and this can give them something to do that is worth while.”

As it currently stands, Calgary art lovers have to travel to get their fill of contemporary art, and many, including Meyer, believe this is an issue that can be addressed by an institution like Contemporary Calgary.

“It’s hard for me, because my boyfriend and I love art, but as it stands we have to leave the city to enjoy good art institutions, whether that be somewhere in Canada or abroad. The idea of having something right in our city is so appealing.”

Art lovers pack the former planetarium to show their support for the new project. Photo courtesy of Kelly Hofer / Contemporary CalgaryOne of the most exciting features of the project is the building in which it will be housed. Situated in the west end of Calgary’s downtown, the former planetarium is historically significant to Calgary. Built as part of a Canadian Centennial project in 1967, the 56,000 square foot building has won several architectural awards and was home to the Calgary Science Centre until 2011 when it was abandoned.

“It is very satisfying to know that the planetarium will be preserved and repurposed as a cultural site for the visual and media arts. It’s a great exercise in preservation that respects our architectural and cultural history,” says Trépanier about the site.

Regarding artists’ involvement, many artists participated in the recent LOOK 2015 event hosted at the planetarium, a fundraiser for Contemporary Calgary. Pieces by Evan Penny, Kim Dorland and Cathy Daley were auctioned off in support of the project.

The newly renovated space is scheduled to be open to the public in the fall of 2016. More fundraising events will take place over the next several years.

Thumbnail by Kari Pedersen

kpedersen@cjournal.ca

The editor responsible for this article is Dan Ball, dball@cjournal.ca