New Brunswick

Study estimates new Moncton-area contemporary art museum could cost $38M

Consultant estimates proposal would require $1.2M to $1.3M per year in private, government funding

Posted: June 18, 2020

Dieppe Mayor Yvon Lapierre says the idea wouldn't have reached this point if the cities weren't interested in the project. (Shane Magee/CBC News)

Establishing a new contemporary art museum in Moncton or Dieppe could cost $38 million, according to a feasibility study presented to a meeting of representatives from both cities Wednesday afternoon. 

The study by Lord Cultural Resources outlined potential costs, staffing and other aspects of how such a museum could work. 

The museum would include works of art from the 1960s to the present featuring Acadian and other Atlantic Canadian artists. The study says there aren't any major museums focused on contemporary art in Atlantic Canada and it would not  compete with other existing museums and art galleries.

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No final decisions on whether to go ahead with the concept have been made, and it's not clear when further decisions will be made. 

"It's still preliminary at this point," Mayor Dawn Arnold said in an interview. "There's still many, many more stages to go." 

She said there are lots of unknowns. 

"But projects like this, it's often a decade or more to get something like this going." 

Let's cross our fingers that there's a future for this project. - Moncton Coun. Blair Lawrence

"We wouldn't be here at this point in time if we weren't interested in the project," Dieppe Mayor Yvon Lapierre said during the meeting. 

Daniel Chiasson, board chair of Atlantic(que) Image Art Inc., called it a "grand, crazy idea" that the group has been pursuing with both cities.

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Chiasson said the concept could still be possible if one city opts not to go ahead, but suggested the communities work together on the idea. 

Several city councillors who attended the meeting expressed support.

Moncton Coun. Blair Lawrence crossed his fingers during the meeting, saying he hopes that there’s a future for the concept. (Shane Magee/CBC)

"Let's cross our fingers that there's a future for this project," Moncton Coun. Blair Lawrence said. The study did not consider any specific sites in either city or include conceptual plans. 

"We don't know yet where it's going to be located because we have come to that part of the project yet," Chiasson said. 

The study's cost estimate is based on a newly constructed building on purchased land, but it could be included in a mix-used structure or in an existing building that's repurposed. It could include multi-use rooms and a café space. 

Moncton Coun. Paulette Thériault suggested using existing buildings, even pointing to the former Moncton High School now owned by Heritage Development Ltd.

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Chiasson said the cost estimate would likely remain the same if an existing building is used because of renovation work. 

The study calls for construction costs to be covered by the federal, provincial levels of government in addition to private sources. 

Paulette Thériault, a Moncton councillor, suggested repurposing an existing building if the museum goes ahead. (CBC)

It suggests a structure of about 50,000 square feet somewhere near the Petitcodiac River that would employ around 18 full-time staff. Moncton's Resurgo Place museum is about 30,000 square feet. 

The study pegs the estimated annual operating cost of the art museum at about $1.9 million, with up to $1.3 million of that coming from municipalities in the region and private sources.

The study suggests making construction funding from other levels of government contingent on municipalities agreeing to contribute to operating costs. 

The collections would be donated or offered on loan from private sources. 

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"We don't see any problem getting a hold of a very prestigious collection," Chiasson said. 

While Moncton staff earlier this year said the museum would focus on Acadian and Indigenous works, Chiasson said it would likely take a broader Atlantic Canadian view.

The study estimates the museum could draw about 48,000 visitors per year during its first two years, dropping to about 40,000 annually.

It says the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton reported about 26,800 visitors in 2017 and 33,000 in 2018.

The study recommends free admission to those under 25 years of age. 

"One of the objectives is to make this museum as accessible as possible to all people," Chiasson said.