Welcoming Regardless of Income or Circumstance

Posted on December 15, 2014

Social agencies and community groups who attended City of Edmonton consultation sessions last week expressed excitement about the Edmonton Galleria Project potential to be an asset to their organizations and the people they serve. However, they cautioned that planning input and program partnerships were keys to realizing this potential.

We were pleased to hear this because we understand the Edmonton Galleria Project must be an integrated part of the community in order to be successful. Rather than displacing people, it must be a community builder….a welcoming space regardless of income or circumstance. We recognize that to do this we must involve our neighbours and others who may be impacted early in the process, not after the decisions have been made.

People at the consultations saw significant opportunities in working together to continue revitalization of the area, do community programming on the Galleria plaza and in the theatres, work with U of A students and faculty on music and art outreach, support community organizations and artists in need, and generally create something that has great value to a host of people.

The discussions did raise flags about the impact on the poor and homeless, congestion, rent pressures, safety, and other issues. However, people were confident these could be addressed and resolved through dialogue, collaboration and open communications. To ensure we stay connected, transparent and collaborative, it is our intent to follow-up with stakeholders after the City’s consultations are done in February.

Potential of Cultural Trust is Enormous

Posted on September 19, 2014

Phase I of the Edmonton Galleria Project includes launching a Cultural Trust. The mandate of the Trust is to support the arts in Edmonton for generations to come. Many people have asked us how this will be done. Will everyone have access to the funds? What will be eligible (i.e. capital versus operational)? Who will decide what’s worth supporting and what isn’t?

The short answer is none of those decisions have been made. What has been decided is that a community board will govern the Trust. This board will be made up of a diversity of stakeholders from the community. The other thing that has been decided is the Trust will be another source of funding for the arts in Edmonton. It will not replace current arts funding sources or diminish the obligations of governments to support the arts in the future.

The potential value and impact of the Trust is enormous. EDACC’s innovative funding formula means the Trust will receive a perpetual stream of income, estimated to be several million dollars per year once the entire Edmonton Galleria Project is completed. This money will be reinvested to support local arts facilities, organizations, programs, and artists. This is important to all Edmontonians, not just those involved in the arts, since many studies have shown that a vibrant arts community is key to a city’s attractiveness as a place to live, visit and invest in.

We know the fundamentals of our Cultural Trust will work because the model has been a resounding success elsewhere. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust was established 25 years ago and is now a major catalytic force in the city. It was a major contributor to the downtown development of a cultural district that draws two million people each year. The Pittsburg Cultural Trust annually supports and collaborates with hundreds of Pittsburgh resident companies, arts organizations and artists.

It’s this kind of impact that we believe the Galleria Cultural Trust can have on Edmonton and the arts here. What are your thoughts regarding a Cultural Trust in Edmonton?

Right Space, Right Opportunity, Right Time

Posted on August 28, 2014

The right space, the right opportunity, at the right time. This is what the Edmonton Galleria Project really means to the Faculty of Arts.

Moving two of our fine arts departments downtown would reinvigorate their programs, making the Galleria a place where learning, creativity and life come together. Being in the heart of Edmonton’s art and music community could create a synergistic and energetic environment for young artists, foster interdisciplinary and community collaborations, and provide people in the arts with new avenues to showcase their work.

Currently, fine arts students and faculty lack sufficient performance, studio and teaching space. For example, painting studios for art students are located in the basement of HUB Mall—a space that lacks natural light; the Industrial Design program is housed in a building that was originally an ammunition warehouse during the Second World War; and music students lack an acoustic concert hall to accommodate large ensemble and orchestral performances.

The programs offered in Music and Art & Design are varied and extensive. They provide students with the opportunity to develop their creativity and be prepared for the rapidly changing world they will enter when they graduate. Author Daniel Pink describes the MFA as the new MBA in his economic model of creativity. He argues that in a competitive and evolving “knowledge” economy, it’s no longer good enough to be logical and analytical. A hub of fine arts activity supported by sufficient, innovative and high-quality space will position students as strong contributors to Edmonton’s and Alberta’s cultural and business communities.

As a Galleria tenant, students and faculty will have the opportunity to collaborate with organizations and businesses in the area, such as the Royal Alberta Museum, the Art Gallery of Alberta, and CKUA Radio. The Department of Music presents over 200 concerts a year, and a downtown campus creates the possibility of lunch time performances that would attract new audiences.

The University of Alberta is already an important part of Edmonton’s cultural and intellectual landscape. The Galleria Project presents us with an exciting opportunity, and we are honoured to be a potential partner in contributing to the future growth of the downtown arts district. When creative minds come together to make an idea come to life, it’s easy to imagine what that future could look like and the ways in which it would benefit us all.

Dr. Lesley Cormack, Dean, UofA Faculty of Arts

Street Experience

Posted on August 21, 2014

Churchill Square pic 2 - small Gathering Place event photo - street viewThis week we’ve been on the street in the downtown sharing our story and details of the Edmonton Galleria Project. It has been a great experience for us because we get to interact with people who are not connected in some official capacity to the stakeholders we have already reached out to.  City Council or the Edmonton Arts Council for example. Many people didn’t know anything about our project and so we were happy to give them a quick overview. Many others had heard about it and very pleasing to us, most volunteered they were supportive and excited about what we have planned.

For us, raising awareness and building support is critical because the community gave birth to the Edmonton Galleria Project…it’s success depends on satisfying community needs and providing benefits of value to Edmontonians. We plan to do more awareness activities and engage the community in detailed project development. In the meantime, you can help us by sharing our Tweets, Facebook posts, or web information with co-workers, family and friends.

To build and successfully operate four performing arts theatres in downtown Edmonton, complemented with a University of Alberta campus for fine arts students, that are affordable, accessible and meet the needs of students, artists and performance companies, and to create a long term funding source for the benefit of the arts in Edmonton. – See more at: http://www.edacc.ca/about-the-project/#sthash.VqlxnmMi.dpuf
To build and successfully operate four performing arts theatres in downtown Edmonton, complemented with a University of Alberta campus for fine arts students, that are affordable, accessible and meet the needs of students, artists and performance companies, and to create a long term funding source for the benefit of the arts in Edmonton. – See more at: http://www.edacc.ca/about-the-project/#sthash.VqlxnmMi.dpuf
To build and successfully operate four performing arts theatres in downtown Edmonton, complemented with a University of Alberta campus for fine arts students, that are affordable, accessible and meet the needs of students, artists and performance companies, and to create a long term funding source for the benefit of the arts in Edmonton. – See more at: http://www.edacc.ca/about-the-project/#sthash.VqlxnmMi.dpuf
To build and successfully operate four performing arts theatres in downtown Edmonton, complemented with a University of Alberta campus for fine arts students, that are affordable, accessible and meet the needs of students, artists and performance companies, and to create a long term funding source for the benefit of the arts in Edmonton. – See more at: http://www.edacc.ca/about-the-project/#sthash.VqlxnmMi.dpuf

A People Gathering Destination

Posted on August 13, 2014

One of the contributions of the Edmonton Galleria Project is making downtown a more attractive place to visit, meet, work, socialize and live.

The first phase of the project includes the University of Alberta’s School of Music and Department of Art and Design and two performing arts theatres. This phase alone is expected to draw an additional 5,000 people a day downtown. Subsequent phases will include two more performing arts theatres, commercial, retail, and perhaps residential space. This will draw several thousands more.

Having 10,000+ more students, musicians and artists, employees, consumers and visitors daily in the core will make it significantly more vibrant. It will attract a host of additional food, entertainment and activity options that do not currently exist. This fits in perfectly with the vision of the Edmonton Galleria Project, which is to help transform downtown Edmonton into a people gathering destination; a place where people congregate and stay for the day or the evening, not just for a two hour concert or event, and then leave.

Building on the trend already being seen in the downtown, the draw of the Edmonton Galleria Project will spur more business and residential growth, and serve as a catalyst for continued downtown revitalization. The Galleria’s public, covered gathering space is the focal point and will be a natural place for people to meet, mingle, and be entertained.

More and more people in the downtown means a rising demand for comfortable and attractive public spaces. The Edmonton Galleria Project’s sheltered and multi-use gathering space meets this future demand. It will be attractive to people for a myriad of reasons – coffee and meal breaks, shopping and dining out, buskers and artists, student creations (structured and impromptu), meet, mix and mingle, people watching…..the possibilities and opportunities are endless.

In a 2013 article, Steven Sandor of Avenue Magazine provides a glimpse of a future that includes the Edmonton Galleria Project: “The sidewalks are packed with pedestrians checking out the shops. Cafes and patios are filled with families. Those walking in the Galleria can look in on shows happening at the adjoining theatres through the glass walls. A large screen drops, and passersby stop to watch a film.”

Do you think bringing thousands more people downtown every day is a good thing? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook or in the comments below!

Phased Approach Moves Project Forward

Posted on July 30, 2014

This week, we announced that the Edmonton Galleria Project will now be built in phases. We are taking this approach so we can move the project forward more quickly. This phased approach is not a scaling back of the project. Our vision remains the same and all of the elements of the project are still in play.

Phase I will include the University of Alberta’s School of Music and the Department of Art and Design, a 200-seat recital hall and a 650-seat proscenium theatre/concert hall. Phase I also includes the Galleria floor or public gathering space and completion of the connection to the Churchill LRT Station. The 200-seat black box theatre, a 1600-seat full proscenium theatre, the Galleria roof and the commercial/retail and other space will be built in future phases. The University of Alberta will have dedicated use of the recital hall but the 650-seat theatre will be available for multiple performing arts users and purposes.

We are able to move forward on Phase I because the EDACC Foundation does not require any additional financial commitment from the City of Edmonton. The Station Lands site will be owned by the Foundation and is properly zoned. Once a long-term lease is signed with the University of Alberta, which supports the phased approach, we can begin detailed design and construction.

It is also the intention to kick-start the Galleria Cultural Trust as part of Phase 1. The Cultural Trust is an exciting legacy component of our project that will fund the arts in Edmonton for generations to come.

Mayor Don Iveson has expressed strong support for this approach. City Councillors Scott McKeen and Andrew Knack have also publicly supported phasing. You can read Councillor McKeen’s comments in the Edmonton Journal here, and read Councillor Knack’s comments in Metro Edmonton here.

Are you happy with this new approach? Comment below, or find us on Facebook and Twitter! If you would like to receive updates on the Edmonton Galleria Project, sign up!

Assessibility of Galleria Theatres

Posted on July 25, 2014

Accessibility to the Edmonton Galleria Project performing arts theatres is frequently brought up in conversations that we have with artists, arts groups, university faculty and students, and others. From the outset, accessibility has been a key issue for us, especially the accommodation of smaller, local arts groups and artists.

The four theatres were conceived based on a 2013 independent assessment by AMS of space requirements for theatre, dance, choral and music in Edmonton. This included new space desired by the University of Alberta for its School of Music and other programs.

Based on what we know from the initial assessment and other consultations with the Edmonton arts community, the theatres will be an attractive draw once they open. A survey of 16 potential local users showed the 200-seat black box theatre and the 650-seat concert hall would be fully subscribed. The University of Alberta’s School of Music would be the primary user of the recital hall and forecasts using the 650-seat proscenium theatre/concert hall for as many as half the available days.

Of course, wanting to be somewhere and being able to afford it are two different things. We’ve heard from lots of local people that renting a desired performing arts venue in the City is often cost prohibitive. We think it is reasonable to charge for usage but to increase local access, our intent is to subsidize a portion of the theatres’ operating costs using revenue from leases, commercial rents and parking. The goal is to make renting a Galleria theatre affordable for even small arts groups.

Part of accessibility is related to location, particularly for patrons. We are excited to be locating downtown because it is a hotbed of residential and commercial development. In a recent Avison Young report, Edmonton’s young professionals “are choosing to live, work and entertain themselves downtown”. This is a trend that will likely continue for some time. We believe that the theatres, the Galleria gathering space, and the University of Alberta new downtown campus will be a major draw for those seeking venues that showcase Edmonton’s artistic talent and diversity. This is important to us because at the core, showcasing and supporting the arts in Edmonton is what the Edmonton Galleria Project is all about.

Having noted the above, there is still significant work to be done in the design of the theatres. Detailed design won’t begin until we have hired a project architect, likely later this year. Certainly the engagement of potential users will be part of the detailed design process. If you have any thoughts now about the theatres, or would like to us to include you as part of the consultation process, please let us know.