Contemporary Calgary likely to take over old planetarium

Contemporary Calgary the new organization formed from the amalgamation of the Art Gallery of Calgary the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Insitute of Modern and Contemporary Art is one step closer to taking over the old planetarium building in west downtown.

It’s a major development towards achieving a dream that has been decades in the makin g. Various groups including IMCA have been trying to establish a proper collecting contemporary arts museum since the ’90s but efforts to create and maintain public contemporary arts spaces dates back to the early part of last century.

Contemporary Calgary was the top contender in the city’s expression of interest contest to repurpose the buidling left vacant with the opening of Telus Spark.

"We’re entering into a due diligence process" says Terry Rock the interim managing director of Contemporary Calgary. "So if you imagine the bidding process for it you have limited access to know what’s in the building and stuff like that. So before we get all the way there we’re going to sit down with the city and really figure out what’s going on there and what it’s going to take to do it."

There is no guarantee that the space will become a contemporary art museum but today’s decision marks an important milestone.

"Sure there’s definitely a possibility that it won’t happen but our intent of course is to make sure it will work. It’s all really just due diligence."

One quesiton that will need to be addressed is the stengthening of Contemporary Calgary’s finances. While MOCA and IMCA were financially sound the AGC was reeling from years of bad blood with the arts community and the arrest and conviction of its president and CEO Valerie Cooper for fraud. The gallery lost government funding and was struggling financially.

"Put it this way we’re re-establishing our relationship with our funders and so MOCA was in good standing with the funders and we have a new board new structure and all that so we’re quite confident we’ll be able to restore the public funding to the level that it should be" says Rock.

The organization is also sitting on prime real estate on Stephen Avenue — the old AGC space — which is the main exhibition venue for the organization and which could add to the bottom line but Rock says it’s too early to say what they will do with the building.

"Owning the Stephen Avenue location is definitely something that provides us stability and so that’s a good asset as we go forward" he says. "But we’re looking at all options available to us as we head into the exciting process."

Contemporary Calgary came out on top in the bid process thanks in part to the support of 20 individuals in the community that felt passionately about the need for a contemporary art museum that befits a city of over one million people. It’s a collaboration that Rock says will be a cornerstone of the new organization moving forward.

"Today is about sort of a little bit of back patting about the fact that we’ve managed to get it this far and then you know the hard work starts tryingThe to figure out what we can do next" says Rock.