Alberta artists fighting to keep government-run store

The gift shop in the Federal Building that features an Alberta artist is closing, as the provincial government makes cutbacks. Courtesy: Alberta Branded, Legislative Assembly Visitor Centre

The Alberta Branded gift shop in Edmonton’s Federal Building is set to close in April.

The Legislative Assembly Office said it costs $300,000 to run and it loses money.

A special committee meeting on Monday is expected to address the closure, and a group of artists is planning to attend. They won’t be able to speak at the meeting but artist Karen Bishop said she hopes their presence will have the decision reconsidered.

READ MORE: Alberta Branded gift shop closing as part of provincial cuts

“We want to be seen. We haven’t had that opportunity,” Bishop said. “We want them to know that we care, we want them to know that this is not acceptable. If you’re going to take away a provincial store that showcases the arts, you need to have consultations with those people who are impacted.

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Bishop feels that artists were never properly informed before the decision to close the store was made. This was noted in the LAO’s transcripts from the special committee meeting on Nov. 27.

Chair Nathan Cooper was asked if this was expressed to the artists and if they were aware the store was closing.

“No, it hasn’t been because we needed to communicate to our staff prior to,” Cooper said.

“I would suggest that, depending on the artist, the impacts are not that great in that one of the reasons why the Alberta Branded store needs to close is that we actually weren’t selling that many pieces of art. In fact, I have the top 10 list of products, and last year we sold fewer than 90 pieces of art all year.”

Bishop said she is questioning the numbers that have been given, saying that many artists have had success at the store. She added that it is not well-advertised.

“If they had an opportunity to market, that would be a huge thing. It’s not hard to do. Social media is free,” Bishop said.

“Mr. Cooper mentioned that the impact wouldn’t be that great, but clearly it is. We’ve had almost 1,500 people join our Facebook group. We’ve created a movement called ‘AB Arts Matter’ on Instagram and Twitter. I’ve had so many people reach out to me about this, so clearly, the arts are important in this province.”

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The LAO plans to set up a kiosk with souvenirs. Five positions will be eliminated.

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