A museum reimagined

We’re transforming Glenbow, and it’s going to be amazing.

Glenbow is more than a museum. It is more than the artifacts and artworks found in our collection. Glenbow is a place of confluence for people and communities to share and partake in diverse ideas, knowledge, opinions and experiences.

Whether it’s inside a museum gallery, in a classroom, or digitally through our website or social media, we bring people together to experience art, culture and history in authentic and active ways.

A revitalized space

Located in the heart of Calgary’s cultural district, Glenbow offers visitors an opportunity to experience and appreciate the artistic and cultural legacy of the remarkable peoples and events that have shaped our communities.

We have an unprecedented opportunity to upgrade our purpose-built space to better serve our community and further elevate art and culture in our city. By renovating our building, we will provide a superior experience to all who come through our doors — from more and better exhibition spaces to improved access to our collection of approximately 250,000 artworks and objects from across western Canada and the world.

Glenbow is a place of confluence – a meeting point for people and communities to join a flow of ideas, knowledge, opinions and experiences

Our redesigned building will feature:

  • An accessible open-air lobby and gathering spaces for people to congregate and connect
  • A restaurant and enhanced retail shop offering a one-of-a-kind cultural entertainment experience to both Glenbow guests and the public
  • Innovative gallery spaces designed to accommodate large-scale exhibitions and installations
  • Flexible education spaces that facilitate immersive learning experiences and hands-on access to the collection
  • New technology providing more ways to engage and interact with exhibitions and items in our collection
  • A financially and environmentally sustainable design guided by industry best practices and architectural standards

Why now?

Our current building is 44 years old and showing its age. This renovation will mitigate the substantial risks Glenbow is facing due to aging infrastructure and will also solve challenges that weren’t considered in the original 1970s-era design.

Most importantly, the renovation will transform Glenbow from an introverted, opaque building closed off from public view into a cultural landmark with a welcoming presence and amenities that will allow people to interact with art in new ways. It will offer unparalleled public access to Glenbow’s collections and exhibitions, increasing both physically and financially accessible opportunities for Calgarians of all ages to engage with Glenbow.

This renovation will complement and connect downtown Calgary’s most exciting cultural spaces, from Contemporary Calgary in the west to Arts Commons, the New Central Library and the National Music Centre to the east. This dynamic cultural district will ensure downtown Calgary remains a healthy, vibrant destination for everyone.

Our journey so far

Our path to revitalizing Glenbow and building a reinvigorated cultural destination has been ongoing since 2013. We are now in a position where we can move forward with a capital campaign and a plan for renovating our building.

2013

  • Glenbow’s board and staff place increased focus on financial stability and sustainability in order to move beyond the status quo and start to envision bigger, bolder goals for Glenbow.
  • Glenbow begins offering free admission to thousands of people through sponsored initiatives such as Free First Thursday Nights and Community Day. Through these and other special access programs, over 100,000 people have been able to visit Glenbow for free, including 33,000 last year alone.
  • We continue building on Glenbow’s 30-year history of community collaboration and engaging with Indigenous stakeholders adding new public programs for Indigenous education opportunities, led by Indigenous educators.

2015

  • Glenbow engages Calgary-based design firm Dialog to produce architectural concept drawings, working with an international museum consulting firm to inspire our plans for Glenbow’s future.

2017

  • We begin conducting extensive stakeholder engagements and audience research to dig into big questions about how Glenbow serves our community and how to grow our impact.

2018

  • We use the feedback and data from these engagements to inform a strategic planning process that identified clear ways Glenbow needed to evolve to better serve our community.
  • After a building assessment, it becomes clear that our situation is urgent. The estimate to fully assess and mitigate all issues and replace aging internal systems starts at $17 million. Glenbow holds a nationally significant collection of art and cultural material that is owned by the people of Alberta, and our ability to care for it and ensure that our community has access to it is at risk.

2019

  • We undertake renovations of Glenbow’s current gallery spaces to act on our mandate and make Glenbow’s collection more accessible. We also begin increasing exhibition cycles and presenting more content with fresh and diverse perspectives.
  • With ambitious, nationally significant exhibitions of art, fashion and culture, we achieve an increase in general attendance by more than 42 per cent since 2013.

2020

  • The provincial government pledges $40 million towards revitalizing Glenbow’s aging infrastructure and modernizing the building.

Building for increased accessibility and engagement with our community

1. A reimagined Glenbow brings art to the city and the city to art. Expressive form and visible programming transform the existing, inward-looking building into a revitalized cultural landmark and a critical wayfinding link, connecting downtown Calgary’s most exciting cultural spaces, from Contemporary Calgary in the west to Arts Commons, the New Central Library and the National Music Centre to the east. 2. Visitors are greeted by a new double height entrance on the corner of 1st Street SE & Stephen Avenue, opening the museum to Olympic Plaza, and framing guests’ arrival into Calgary’s cultural heart. 3. A revitalized retail space and new at-grade café are just two of the key amenities within the museum’s open public space accessible from Stephen Avenue. 4. Every corner of the building is activated. An active interior event space located at 1st Street SE and 9th Avenue animates the intersection and can easily accommodate event specific transformations of 9th Avenue, such as parades or street festivals. 5. A re-imagined loading zone dramatically improves the at-grade frontage along 1st Street SE. 6. The first two floors offer transparency into and out of the building. Special galleries push up against the facade, connecting educational, innovative and creative programming with the public, ensuring there is always something to discover as you walk by the new Glenbow.

Frequently asked questions

What governmental support is Glenbow receiving?

The Government of Alberta has committed $40 million to support our plans for a revitalized building which will allow us to increase public access to the collection and positively impact the cultural prosperity of our city and the province as a whole. These project-specific funds must be matched by further fundraising and support. 

Why renovate the existing building?

By renovating, we can make use of the advantages that exist with our existing purpose-built building, transforming it and giving it new life while minimizing our environmental impact.

Why stay downtown?

Downtown, we’re next door to many other cultural organizations who are all doing amazing work to connect with Calgarians and engage new and bigger audiences, and that’s an exciting place to be. Together we are at the heart of Calgary’s cultural district and we play a crucial role in ensuring the long-term vitality of downtown Calgary.

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