Federal funding sets gallery reno wheels rolling

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The Art Gallery of St. Albert finally has everything lined up to support a long-awaited and much-needed upgrade to become barrier free.

Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi was at the historic Banque d’Hochelaga building on Friday to announce that the federal government was putting down the final $389,201 from the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund to get the approximately $1.5 million project underway. The City of St. Albert unanimously approved putting down 70 per cent or $1.1 million toward the project last year, with the province adding some funding in as well.

Friday’s announcement was made on behalf of the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage.

“Investments in accessible arts and cultural infrastructure allow countless more Canadians to take part in building an inclusive and strong community. I am thrilled that the Art Gallery of St. Albert will be able to improve and expand its facility as a result of this funding,” Sohi said.

This investment will allow the gallery to install a wheelchair ramp at the entrance, along with an elevator to provide full access to all three levels of the building located at 19 Perron St. A 91 sq. m. addition will be made to the second floor as well.

The gallery has been located in the building since the city purchased it in 2000. The 479 sq. m. structure was built in 1921 with previous additions made in the 1950s and 1960s. It received its municipal historic resource designation in 2009.

The project has been in the works for several years and is now set to begin in December. Tom Thackeray, the chair of the board of directors of Arts and Heritage St. Albert (AHF), the arms-length organization that acts as steward of the gallery, said that the gallery would need to temporarily relocate in order to continue offering its exhibits and programs while the construction proceeded.

He was pleased that the dream is finally going to be realized.

“It’s really important that if you have a building that’s open to the public, it should be accessible to all people. We are just so excited that this is going ahead.”

Ann Ramsden, the executive director of the organization, said that the investment is not just in a structure but in the community and its culture.

“The investment in this building will ensure that it will be the home of the art gallery for many years to come. It will preserve the character of the building and provide the amenities that are essential for the art gallery to be accessible and enjoyed by everyone in the community, and fulfill its mandate as a cultural space.”

“I believe that St. Albert’s heritage and art, shaped by diversity, deserves to be shared with all Canadians. As stewards for the next generations of artists and creators, art galleries play a crucial role in showcasing the region’s stories and art history. I commend the Art Gallery of St. Albert on its commitment to provide an inclusive space for all to appreciate and enjoy,” Edmonton Centre MP Randy Boissonnault commented.

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Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.