The Art Gallery of Alberta will likely cut back its hours and reduce its programming after city council chose not to throw it a much needed lifeline on Tuesday.

In a tie vote, councillors turned down the gallery's request for $250,000 in annual emergency funds for the next three years.

The gallery asked council for the money to help implement a new strategy to get more visitors through its doors. The gallery's plan includes a free admission model, which is an attempt to boost sponsorship income.

The gallery's executive director, Catherine Crowston, refused to comment on what will happen to the gallery now.

Paul Moulton, executive director of the Edmonton Arts Council, told councillors there would be a serious impact on the gallery's ability to function without the emergency funds. He described reduced hours, and a lower level of programming.

"The downward spiral will be very hard to recover from," Moulton said.

The $88-million gallery, designed by Los Angeles architect Randall Stout, opened in 2010. The city put $21 million toward the construction cost.

Taxpayers already contribute $1.125 million toward the gallery's operations each year through the Edmonton Arts Council.

Since 2012, the city has also contributed $2.5 million in emergency funds.

Coun. Michael Oshry voted against the additional funds. He said he wasn't impressed by the gallery's past performance.

"I'm not sure if this business model is going to work," he said. "I don't think this is the right way to go about it, by throwing money on an emergency basis every couple of years."

Coun. Ben Henderson was disappointed council chose not to fund the gallery. He said the money is available, and wouldn't have impacted the tax rate.

"I don't know why we would build something like that if we aren't prepared to get behind operating it," Henderson said. "I think we may have done great damage."

He was one of six councillors to vote in favour of the lifeline for the gallery, but in the case of a tie the motion fails.


  • A previous version of this story gave an incorrect figure for taxpayers' contribution to The Art Gallery of Alberta. The correct figure is $1.125 million per year.
    Dec 02, 2015 11:00 AM MT