City of Calgary commits $12 million to Glenbow Reimagined

Glenbow President & CEO talks about the museum’s renovation and community impact


On June 6, The City of Calgary approved an additional $12 million to support Glenbow’s revitalization project. To learn more about the impact The City’s investment will have on the project and the community, we sat down with Nicholas Bell, President & CEO of Glenbow.

How will these additional funds be used? 

We are thrilled by The City’s new commitment announced this week. This contribution brings The City’s total support for Glenbow Reimagined to $37 million, in line with the other orders of government.

Like every capital project today, we are fighting inflation, escalation in materials, disrupted supply chains and increased cost of business – we are rebuilding this museum today in a vastly different environment than when we first began this project several years ago. The fact that we have been able to control our costs to this extent is a testament to the care and dedication of our Calgary-based renovation team – partners such as our development manager M3, prime consultant DIALOG, construction manager EllisDon, and the countless local consultants and trades employed by this project. 

In addition to offsetting escalation and inflation costs for construction of our base building, new City funds will seed development of the museum’s exhibition design, development of our rooftop terrace overlooking Stephen Avenue, and our new theatre facing 9 Avenue SE.

What is Glenbow doing to mitigate cost overruns?

Despite one of the most uncertain economies in decades, we have been able to keep construction costs within 10% of our 2018 project budget, at a time when new construction has increased by as much as 50%. We have seen other museum builds across Canada shelved because of these conditions; we will never let that happen for Glenbow.

In fact, we are delivering this project to our community at a per-square-foot cost up to 70% lower than new museum construction today. We originally chose to renovate rather than rebuild because we recognised the inherent value of our existing building, and the wastefulness of tearing it down to start over. That original decision has helped us to weather the continuing upheaval we are seeing across the construction industry. We hope other Canadian cities will look to Glenbow as model for prudent stewardship of existing cultural infrastructure.

How will this investment impact Calgarians and the economy?

A year ago, we announced an unprecedented $35 million donation from the Shaw Family Foundation that will enable Glenbow to offer free general admission to everyone, forever – a first for a major museum in Canada. By reframing access to arts and culture as a right rather than a privilege, we ensure that every Calgarian and visitor will enjoy free access to Glenbow’s program for generations to come. Not only will this change the relationship Calgarians have with Glenbow, it will also inspire other communities across Canada to do the same. We are already witnessing increased interest in this model since the Shaw announcement.

Over the last five years we have seen a groundswell in interest in the role arts and culture will play in Calgary’s future; everywhere I go I meet people speaking with passion about how the future development, not only of Glenbow, but also Arts Commons, Contemporary Calgary, and now Olympic Plaza, will further support our position as the most livable city in North America. The City of Calgary’s commitment this week affirms its own stance in relation to these values – they are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with us as we build the JR Shaw Centre for Arts & Culture, the future home of Glenbow.

How is the revitalization project going to help transform downtown Calgary and Stephen Avenue?

Every Calgarian has a right to be downtown – it is our communal space, our collective backyard. We simply believe that every Calgarian and every visitor should feel a sense of belonging here. This is fundamental when it comes to the people we serve. Through more inclusive programming, more community outreach, and free general admission Glenbow will help increase traffic downtown and activate Stephen Avenue, already being realized today through our satellite gallery, Glenbow at The Edison. We aren’t just museum building – we are city building.

To learn more about The City’s funding commitment, read the media release.



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