Art Gallery of Grande Prairie Grand Opening

A Sequence of Architectural Experiences

by Eileen Coristine

Art Gallery of Grande Prairie; Photo by Teeple Architects Inc.

In the dying light of a stunning autumn evening, the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie was officially opened on September 28, 2012. That evening the community was welcomed to a Block Party and a chance to see the additional galleries created through the restoration of the historic 1929 Grande Prairie High School.

Originally called the Prairie Gallery, the old school opened as an art venue in 1975. Then in 1993, the name was changed to Prairie Art Gallery. Earlier this year the facility was renamed Art Gallery of Grande Prairie and a new logo was unveiled.

“This Block Party is meant to celebrate all of the major changes that have been made and to mark the significance of the expanded gallery,” says Executive Director/Curator Robert Steven. “This is not revolution but evolution. It’s not just about the last five years but everything that’s happened in the last 37 years, and everyone who has been involved, even just to visit the gallery, should take pride.”

Gallery Two; Photo by Prairie Ranger Photography

At 20,200 square feet, the seven-gallery space is now double in size. Construction included many challenges, particularly since there was a desire to include the aged and damaged school in the project. The resulting combination of galleries ranging from small and intimate to large and expansive, with a glass bridge that connects the school to the Montrose Cultural Centre, is itself a work of art.

“What we have created is sculptural within, “says Steven Teeple of Teeple Architects Inc. “Architecture begins with what needs to be done. We invented spaces to fit the purpose, but they had to be expressive and had to be experiential.”

Pam French has been president of the board of the AGGP since July 1, 2012  “I have been involved with the gallery for nine years and have always had a passion for its mission. We are a public art gallery and our mission is to share the art experience with the whole community,” she says.

“The Art Gallery of Grande Prairie is the second largest public art gallery in Alberta and for a city our size across Canada, we will be in the top five,” explains past president, Grant Berg. “But more important than size, the seven new gallery spaces will allow us to show a wide variety of exhibitions. Being designated a category “A” gallery, we are equipped to show virtually any art exhibition in Canada.”

“For me personally, five and a half years after the collapse of the roof of the school building, I simply look forward to regular art exhibitions again. I am also happy for Robert Steven and his staff that they finally can transition into the jobs they were originally hired to do, running and programming an art gallery.”

Guests at the Block Party included many regional artists as well as representatives of all levels of government, including the Honourable Donald Ethell, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta who performed the ribbon cutting.

Rise Again: The Restoration of the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie; with Artist Kim Scott

“The past and the future of our region come together at the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie,” said Grande Prairie Mayor Bill Given. “Retaining the historic character of the original facade demonstrates our community’s commitment to remembering those who came before us and the cutting-edge interior provides an unrivalled space that will inspire generations of Peace Country residents.”

Celebrations continued the following day with a Family Festival. Exhibits on view over the weekend celebration included Narrative Quest, Jon Sasaki: Good Intentions, Catherine Hamel: 6 points of resilience, Robert Guest: Winter on the Wapiti, an installation called Rock Paper River by Faye Heavyshield and a series of photographs of the reconstructions of the gallery by Kim Scott.

 


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