The Glenbow Museum in Calgary is already in the midst of a significant renovation, but now a big donation is further shaping the future of the landmark.
A $35 million endowment means admission fees will be eliminated at the museum when it reopens in 2024, and the building housing the museum will also get a new name: the JR Shaw Centre for Arts and Culture.
The donation from the Shaw family also creates new programming for the museum, with $10 million earmarked to create a facility that features new exhibitions, programs, and artist residencies.
“In Calgary, access to arts and culture will no longer be a privilege,” said museum President and CEO Nicholas Bell. “It will be a right.”
The multi-year project to reshape the museum is already well underway, with parts being dismantled from the top floor down and pieces being moved into temporary storage.
Updated renderings of the building have also been shared, as the donation finally secures the $150 million needed to renovate it. With that, Bell said they are now targeting a goal of $175 million in funding to continue building on their success.
“This is the largest gift to Glenbow since it opened its doors. And it will fundamentally transform how we serve our community,” Bell said.
The building has been in dire need of an update since it opened back in 1966, and the hope is this will also play a major role in downtown revitalization plans in Calgary.
“We spend so much time talking about what arts and culture mean to tourism, it actually means a lot to the people who live in Calgary as well. These are the stories of who we are, and allowing people to engage with them is just so powerful,” said Mayor Jyoti Gondek. “We are on the right path, and we’re moving forward. Yes, it will take some time to emerge to prosperity, but we are on the right path here.”
???? HUGE News!????
We are so excited to announce a transformative $35 million donation from the family of JR Shaw, including an endowment that will provide free general admission for everyone visiting Glenbow, forever.
— Glenbow (@Glenbow) February 17, 2022
Premier Jason Kenney says the building revitalization will put Alberta “very much on the radar screen of visitors around the world.”
“What we need to show the rest of Canada and the rest of the world is we have a world-class cultural life, and Glenbow Reimagined is a critical part of that.”
Previous contributions to the project have also included $40 million from the provincial government.
Glenbow is now in rare company, as the only major museum of its kind in Canada to offer free admission. It also places it among some of the world’s finest institutions, such as the Smithsonian and the British Museum.
There’s hope that it can spark a new love of arts and culture in the city, with a promise it will always be accessible for anyone and everyone.
“It’s important to understand that Canadians deserve as much as citizens of every country in the world to be able to walk through the doors of their greatest cultural institutions, without wondering whether or not they can afford to get in. Without wondering whether or not they have to choose between a masterpiece and a meal on the table,” said Bell. “All of us deserve to have access to these resources.”
For the Shaw family, this donation is a major point of pride, and Julie Shaw, president of the Shaw Family Foundation and daughter of JR Shaw, was ecstatic to bring the news forward.
“This would be so special for (JR) to know that everyone can come in free,” Shaw said. “This gift, from the family and the foundation, is something that would be true to his heart.”
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