The Arts Foster Understanding and Empathy in our Community

Posted on March 14, 2016

Futurists predict a world which differs markedly from the social organization that we experience today. It centers markedly on connection, equality, creativity and social intelligence. The quest for intellectual capital will eclipse the current emphasis on the accumulation of goods and capital that marks Western social organization.

Edmonton is a creative city, one which has long been appropriately recognized for its originality in research, education and the arts. But the pursuit of oil has dominated our society and oil, while contributing to the wealth of Alberta, has produced its own problems. Growth in Alberta has been greater than other provinces, leading to more jobs and greater wealth. Robust job markets with resultant wealth have brought many newcomers to Alberta. But population growth has led to cultural diversity, poverty for those without skills and currently, because of the downturn in the price of oil, a predicted increase in unemployment.

We are already experiencing a diversity of cultures in Edmonton, one that will increase rather than decrease over time. And, as conflict continues in other countries, we are the logical place for the displaced victims of such tragedies. Our own aboriginal population is another group who has been ignored and marginalized. Attempts at inclusion have been rare, and Edmonton does not have a place where everyone can express their cultural heritage and feel included.

The arts foster understanding and empathy in our community. The center of the city, with facilities to hold the expression of these cultures would be the logical place for people to connect. Creativity – dance, drama, voice, painting – a plethora of expressions – can be understood by everyone, regardless of language. People feel connected.

This cultural centre is historically significant as Edmonton was the original gathering place of our indigenous people who welcomed tribes from the large circle of land surrounding it to gossip, intermarry and trade. The concept of a communal gathering place in the heart of the city re-emerged as a vision from consultations with the arts and business community in 2011.

Two tenets that must exist in these facilities are visibility and access. Arts and music must be open to the community. Frequent public performances by university and community groups are essential. Young people can attend theatre or hear a musical performance. Families can attend art classes, expose their children to theatre or educational opportunities, or simply hear a performance. The homeless, long-time residents of the inner city, would be welcome to participate. Students would be downtown and add to the vibrancy of life on the streets. The music and arts department of the University of Alberta would expose citizens to the work and creativity of artistic creation.

This vision embodies a soul for Edmonton – a compilation of not only what Edmonton is, but how it can grow and improve in a way that is harmonious with the future. The Edmonton Galleria embodies the following:

  • More space for the arts: performance, exhibition, work and rehearsal space.
  • Accessible and affordable space – available to all economic levels.
  • University departments which are visible to everyone and hence accessible.
  • Activation of the inner city; more jobs with more people leading to increased safety for everyone.
  • Establishment of a cultural trust which would provide sustainability for the arts in perpetuity.

Edmonton in the future must diversify its economy which includes the support and growth of the talent and educational expertise in the arts. The empathy embodied by the communal expression of our artistic heritage and culture leads to a decrease in social problems and further enriches our city.

Dr. Dianne Kipnes, Chair, Edmonton Galleria Foundation

Memorandum of Understanding Signed with City

Posted on March 3, 2016

The Edmonton Galleria Foundation and the City of Edmonton have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that details the responsibilities of both parties regarding the City of Edmonton’s contribution to the Edmonton Galleria.

“We are pleased to have reached an understanding with the City that will enable us to move forward in providing affordable, accessible and state-of-the-art performing arts space that will benefit the creative community,” said Dr. Dianne Kipnes, Chair, Edmonton Galleria Foundation. In addition to the City’s contribution, the Edmonton Galleria Foundation has gathered commitments of $50M from the private sector.

The City’s $58.3M contribution involves:

  • Up to $7.5M towards the estimated $30M for design and construction of the pedway from the Churchill Station LRT to north of 103A Avenue.
  • $42.5M for land related to theatre development (the City will hold titles to the land).
  • Transfer of the former Edmonton Reuse Centre and a roadway closure to the Foundation, valued at $8.3M.

The MOU makes it clear that the City’s contribution is conditional on a number of factors that minimizes the City’s risk.
“Edmonton’s vibrancy can be enriched by bringing more students, artists and audiences to the heart of our city. A social enterprise approach, like that envisioned by the Edmonton Galleria Foundation, is innovative and can support the endurance and accessibility of arts and culture venues and programs. The new phased approach is prudent and allows the vision to be realized over time subject to reasonable milestones being met,” said Mayor Don Iveson.

The Foundation confirmed in the MOU that:

  • The project will be developed in phases.
  • The City of Edmonton will hold title to the performing arts theatres.
  • Excess revenue from Edmonton Galleria commercial development (after paying operational costs and debt servicing) will be directed to the Edmonton Cultural Trust for reinvestment in arts and culture in Edmonton.
  • The Foundation will be solely responsible for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the Edmonton Galleria facilities.

The Foundation and the City will develop a Community Benefits Agreement that sets out policies and guidelines for community-based improvement opportunities and/or a community-based advisory committee.

Reflections on a Visit to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

Posted on February 9, 2016

I was part of a group who had the opportunity recently to visit Pittsburgh and spend a day with some of the senior executive from the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust was created 30 years ago to help revitalize downtown Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh was in the process of losing half its population and shuttering a number of arts and cultural venues. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, initiated under the leadership of the Heinz family, was created to stimulate the cultural and economic revitalization of downtown Pittsburgh. Using the arts and culture as the catalyst, the Trust has done a very impressive job of reviving the arts and culture in the downtown and also creating a vibrant and animated 14 block Cultural District.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has generated revenue from commercial real estate development and parking, as well as receiving the generous support from Pittsburgh’s philanthropic Foundations, to support the renovations, construction and operations of Pittsburgh’s downtown performing arts venues, numerous galleries, historic building restoration and open spaces development.

Today the Trust continues to be a major catalyst along with the ballet, galleries, opera, symphony, festivals and public theatre for attracting two million visitors annually to the Cultural District. There is significant cooperation and collaboration among the Trust and the resident companies in a number of operational areas that have led to greater efficiencies in overall operations. You can read about these details in their annual reports to the community.

What is the learning for the Edmonton Galleria Foundation? Although we have used the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust as a model for the creation of the Edmonton Cultural Trust – and there are many things that we can learn from Pittsburgh and adapt to Edmonton – we will need to build our Cultural Trust taking into account our needs and uniqueness.

Some notable differences are the role of private foundations with the differences between American and Canadian charitable law. As well, while Pittsburgh’s downtown was almost derelict when the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust began, in Edmonton we are joining an already established and vigorous collection of arts organizations like the Citadel, Winspear, Art Gallery of Alberta, Stanley Milner Library and soon the Royal Alberta Museum.

Using the resources generated from the Edmonton Galleria for the Cultural Trust, we have an opportunity in the future to help grow the arts and culture in Edmonton and support the evolution of a “destination” Arts District in Edmonton’s downtown.

Terry Keyko, Executive Director, Edmonton Galleria Foundation

Two Music Departments in Downtown Edmonton

Posted on January 29, 2016

The Music Departments of MacEwan University and the University of Alberta will both benefit by being close to each other in the downtown. MacEwan and the University of Alberta have already been working together for many years. This will bring them even closer and therefore become more effective in providing a complete range of excellent post-secondary music education in Canada.

MacEwan is primarily oriented towards jazz and contemporary popular music including a strong record of training recording engineers and producers. Besides performance, arranging and composition in jazz and contemporary popular music, MacEwan offers extensive courses in music technology and career management for musicians. They offer undergraduate courses and have no immediate plans to include a graduate school to their campus.

The University of Alberta is primarily oriented towards classical music performance, instrumental and choral conducting, composition, musicology, media studies and ethnomusicology, including a strong tradition in choral music and classical and contemporary classical composition. The University of Alberta offers Bachelor, Masters and Doctoral degrees in music.

These two music schools complement each other because they have distinctly different focuses on the education and training of musicians. Realistically, all post-secondary music schools focus on a specific aspect of music. So, worldwide and in Edmonton there are many examples of two or more high quality music departments working together and, by doing, so offering a wider range of training and scholarship in music.

Both schools offer a strong component of campus-wide musical activities available to all students enrolled and many activities that are available for participation to the greater community.
John Mahon, Executive Director, Edmonton Cultural Trust