A new non-commercial, visual art focused art gallery is in the planning stages for Yellowknife.

The board of directors of Friends of the NWT Art Gallery voted on Oct. 27 to proceed with their plans to create the gallery after receiving the results of a feasibility study from Lord Cultural Resources, an arts sector consultancy headquartered in Toronto.

The plan is for a 29,000-square-foot facility to be constructed, large enough to house a world-class art collection.

The vision for the new facility — currently being referred to as the NWT Arts Centre — is to provide opportunities to create and learn about Northern art, and to meet the needs of visual artists in the NWT.

Adrian Bell, the founding president of Friends of the NWT Art Gallery, stepped down as president to assume the role of director of business development.

“We’ll be moving forward with next steps right away,” he said. “We’re fortunate to have the support of a private foundation, which has allowed us to get this far. Now we’ll begin discussions with other potential funding partners, engaging with the local and territorial governments, identifying and evaluating potential building sites and programming opportunities, and continue our outreach with the arts community and other key parties to chart a path forward.”

As for the overall cost of the project, Bell said, “We don’t have a budget at this time, but I suspect it will be somewhere between $30 million and $60 million.”

‘Very excited’

Toby Kruger, the newly-elected board president, shared his enthusiasm for the new project.

“We’re very excited about the study’s conclusions. We feel the NWT would clearly benefit from a visual arts centre,” he said. “Last Thursday night (Oct. 27), our board agreed that conditions are right for us to proceed with planning, fundraising, and we hope in the not-too-distant future, construction.”

Yellowknifer asked Bell where the building might be located in the future.

“It’s going to depend on what is in the building. If it’s just the non-commercial art gallery and the visual arts focused community centre, then probably the most important consideration is proximity to hotels. If there are other spaces, such as common spaces available for event rentals, those would potentially (be near) a dining area. These are the types of things that would lead to lake view being a bigger consideration, or view period. It’s just going to depend ultimately, what is under this roof. In many other cities, they’re paired with things like libraries, or visitor centres or other complementary services. Those things would impact location as well. It’s far too early to know what would be the perfect location.”

On Oct. 6, Yellowknifer interviewed Sarah Swan, the director for the Yellowknife Artist Run Community Centre. She shared a concern about the infrastructure desperately needed to make arts careers viable in Yellowknife.

“The problem, as many artists in Yellowknife see it, is that there’s a lack of professional opportunities and spaces for artists. Therefore, because there’s no professional gallery, artists can’t get a professional fee. They cannot then apply for professional shows anywhere else because they don’t have a CV (curriculum vitae, which is a comprehensive description of one’s publications and accomplishments).”

Asked whether artists featured in the NWT Art Gallery would be paid a professional fee, Bell replied, “According to our feasibility study, that’s what’s recommended by the consultants. It’s a requirement for Canada Council funding. You have to — and it’s also just the appropriate thing to do.”

Jonathan Gardiner

After a tough break looking for employment in Alberta, I moved to Yellowknife in 2017 and became a multimedia journalist in 2022. I enjoy the networking side of my job, and I also aspire to write my...

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