Starting over from scratch: creating a gallery of contemporary art for Calgary

By DJ Kelly January 14, 2009

Also available on the Calgary Herald’s Q.

The recent “resignation” of Jeffrey Spalding from the Glenbow Museum has created a new call for a gallery of contemporary art. The Herald is all over it. And I’ve had several of my colleagues bring up the thought as well since Spalding’s departure.

The Herald article is the one I find the most interesting however. The first thing I see is they talk to the IMCA pushers (the group that tried their damnedest to secure the old AGT building on 6 Ave SW for the gallery a couple years back) and they mention the $165 million the City of Calgary has available currently as a possible starting point. Yes, that is a good fund to draw from, but you didn’t make it to the short list last year – assuming you put in an application. The money won’t help you if you don’t ask for it. But first you need to get organized better. This is the one over riding thing I’ve heard from people: the group is a high profile group but not well situated to lead the creation of a new gallery. Trust me: after being part of building two new cultural space in the city you need to have a good solid group of people who know what they are doing and are connected in the right ways to get it off the ground.

Which leads me to the second thing I noticed in the article: the IMCA pushers think Spalding may be the man to lead there charge. This is a very good idea – but have you talked to him? I’m not sure this is the best time for him personally. The article says he is has not made any comments since his “resignation”. True, but I’ve had a conversation with him, albeit a shortened one over email. Let’s just say my thoughts are not baseless. (And those quotation marks aren’t for gramatically incorrect emphasis.) I emp

The long and the short of it is – the opportunity for a contemporary art gallery is upon us. But someone is going to have to get a supportive organization organized in the very near future it make it happen. Spalding is just one man – as evidenced by recent events. Someone else will have to step up to lead the organization.

The Glenbow will not and cannot be that gallery. I’ve said it several times over the last few days – they don’t have the space or the brand to make it happen. Don’t even try. We’ll have to wait and see if someone else can make the seemingly impossible happen.