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.