Ottawa Art Gallery raises money for new building on Daly Ave.
Gallery's current home only displays 2 per cent of Firestone collection
The Ottawa Art Gallery has launched its first capital fundraising campaign and is looking for $1.5 million in donations from the public for the new municipal art gallery building, which is slated to open in 2017.
"We'll be five times the size we are now, so that means we're really moving in quantum leaps here," said Lawson Hunter, chair of the fundraising campaign and chair of the gallery's board of directors.
"We need to build an institution, we're not just building a building."
That's why, of the $3.5 million fundraising goal announced Thursday morning, $1 million will be directed toward programming and acquiring art.
The other $2.5 million the "Art Now" campaign is seeking will go toward construction costs. It's an amount the Ottawa Art Gallery had promised the city it would raise.
The gallery has amassed $2 million in donations already and is now urging residents and local businesses to help it "cross the campaign finish line."
New gallery will display more of the collection
The expanded art gallery will be housed in a new development at Daly Avenue and Waller Street, beside the Arts Court building where it has been housed in former courtrooms since 1988.
It has 1600 works of art in its prestigious Firestone collection, including pieces by Lawren Harris, Emily Carr and A.Y. Jackson, but currently only has the space to show two per cent of them.
The new building will have a permanent gallery for that collection, plus room to show temporary exhibitions, hold children's programs and properly store art.
The gallery expansion is part of a public-private partnership that will see the entire block redeveloped. The many arts groups that are tenants of Arts Court will also see upgraded facilities.
The University of Ottawa's theatre program will get four studio-style classrooms and the use of a 120-seat black box space. Condos and a Le Germain boutique hotel will rise above the complex.
The total price tag is more than $100 million, of which $60 million is from the private sector and $41.68 from the City of Ottawa and its partners, including the Ontario government.
"People will use it in a variety of ways. It's not just an art gallery to look at works on a wall; it will be active and alive," said visual artist Jerry Grey, who helped found the municipal gallery back in the 1980s.
She's thrilled the local art gallery will have a gleaming new home, which the city has said will open in late summer or early fall of 2017.
"I think art is an essential part of giving a community life, vitality and ideas," Grey said.
Even Mayor Jim Watson joked at the campaign launch party about Hunter's persistence, calling him a "royal pain, in a good way."
"We have a saying in our office that the most dangerous words we can hear is 'Lawson Hunter on line one," said Watson, commending the fundraising team for its efforts to create a renewed arts hub in the city core.
"It's an embarrassment that we don't have a better municipal gallery in the city," Hunter said, remembering one time telling Ottawa's city manager he was determined to get a new home for the Ottawa Art Gallery before he dies.
"So I've been a little bit relentless in making it happen, and God willing, I'm going to see it."