Much-needed funding has been secured to help the National accessArts Centre, formerly known as the Indefinite Arts Centre, move into its new home after a roof collapse at Calgary’s Fairview Arena in 2018.
The arts organization, which provides artistic training for people with developmental, physical and acquired disabilities, is expected to set up shop in the Scouts Canada building along Memorial Drive.
According to a letter addressed to the organization from the City of Calgary, the city has secured $2.5 million for accessibility upgrades and repairs to the building, which is also a City of Calgary Historic Resource.
“These improvements are being done with the intention of offering the National accessArts Centre the space as their future new home,” City of Calgary building infrastructure manager Susan Specht wrote in the letter.
Specht said the city is in the process of looking for a consultant and engaging with the National accessArts Centre on interior renovation requirements in early April.
The location was identified as a potential location for the centre to move into in November but money was needed for upgrades on the city-owned facility to make it accessible for artists with disabilities.
“This is an exciting step forward for our organization,” National accessArts Centre CEO Jung-Suk Ryu said. “For three years, we’ve faced tremendous challenges and uncertainty following the collapse of the adjoining arena, and this has had an impact on our community of more than 300 artists living with disabilities.
“Now, we are moving towards having a safe, fully accessible home for our organization.”
Ryu is thrilled with the money for the new home for artists.
“We’re all breathing a huge sigh of relief. After three years following the roof collapse of the Fairview Arena, we now have a place to call home, and we’re very excited about the location and the incredible potential that we see in this site,” he said Saturday.
The plan is to retrofit the space, making it accessible and a “multidisciplinary arts hub for artists with disabilities,” Ryu said.
“The ambiguity around where we would find our permanent home has been pretty stressful on our entire community, and so with today’s news, there’s more certainty and there’s a ton of excitement from our community around our new home,” he said.
People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to mental health challenges in isolation — even at the best of times, Ryu explained.
“Art is such a powerful medium,” he said.
“We need the space in order to use the power of the arts, to give opportunities for our community to be artists, to interact with their peers and gain confidence knowing that their art is celebrated and showcased.”
The centre’s current location is in an adjoining facility to the Fairview Arena, which had its roof collapse in February 2018.
The city demolished the rink section of the Fairview Arena in March 2018.
The collapse prompted the arts organization to evacuate its adjoining space for six months while the City of Calgary completed an assessment of the building. In November 2020, it was decided the building the arts organization occupied would also be demolished.
According to the city, the process to designate the Scouts Canada building as a municipal heritage resource is underway and may come with requirements that affect project timelines.
Ryu said the group is expected to take occupancy of the building in late 2021 or early 2022.