Glenbow to offer free general admission permanently after Shaw family donates $35M

Calgary's Glenbow Museum announced Thursday it will offer free general admission permanently, after a donation worth tens of millions of dollars.

Access to arts and culture will no longer be a privilege, 'it will be a right,' museum CEO says

A rendering of the reimagined Glenbow Museum. (Submitted by the Glenbow Museum)

Calgary's Glenbow Museum will offer free general admission permanently thanks to a donation worth tens of millions of dollars.

Julie Shaw, the president of the Shaw Family Foundation, announced the $25-million JR Shaw Free Admissions Endowment at a Thursday news conference.

It was also attended by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek and Calgary-Skyview Liberal MP George Chahal.

The donation is intended to honour the legacy of her father, JR Shaw, who founded Shaw Communications and Corus Entertainment — and loved art, Julie said.

"We are very, very proud to make a donation that honours JR the best way we know how — by building upon his passion for Canadian art and artists, and passing it along for future generations to enjoy without any barriers," she said.

"We can make this Calgary institution, and all that it has to offer, accessible to everyone — without the restriction of having to pay to enter the building."

The Shaw family's donation will also fund a $10-million endowment to create the JR Shaw Institute for Canadian Art.

The museum says it will feature annual exhibitions, diverse programs, an artist-in-residence program and an internship and fellowship program.

Kenney says new Glenbow will showcase culture, heritage

The museum, which opened in 1966, is closed and undergoing a renovation called Glenbow Reimagined.

The free admission endowment, said Glenbow CEO Nicholas R. Bell, will allow the museum to rewrite its social contract with the community.

"In Calgary, access to arts and culture will no longer be a privilege. It will be a right," Bell said.

So far, the museum has raised $152 million in public and private support for the project — but is resetting its campaign goal to $175 million.

"I look forward to working with our supporters here at home, and across Canada, to ensure every possible benefit for this community is achieved in the new Glenbow," Bell said.

Kenney said the project will showcase the culture and heritage "from this part of the world."

"Glenbow Reimagined, I think, is going to put us very much on the radar screen of visitors from around the world," Kenney said.

"We also have a world class cultural life, and Glenbow Reimagined is a critical part of that."

The museum is expected to reopen in 2024. In the meantime, some of its 250,000 articles will be on exhibit at a downtown satellite site in March.


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