When the Glenbow Museum re-opens in two years, you’ll be able to visit it for free.
The Shaw Family Foundation announced a $25-million endowment fund Thursday that will mean free admission to the transformed museum forever – the first major museum in Canada to do so.
“It makes Glenbow a museum where access to arts and culture is no longer a privelege, where it is a right,” Glenbow president and CEO Nicholas Bell said. “Where everyone will recognize that they belong here and we want them here.”
The foundation also announced a further $10 million to establish the JR Shaw Centre for Arts and Culture.
The late JR Shaw was a Calgary businessman who founded Shaw Communications and Corus Entertainment, while also taking on philanthropic efforts throughout his life.
Shaw’s daughter Julie made the announcement.
She said this is a tribute to her father’s vision to provide easy access to arts and culture to everyone, adding this is a perfect way to honour him.
“JR loved art,” Julie said. “Shaw Court is filled with art. (My father) had his own collection — he knew the artists. This would be something that he would appreciate.”
The centre will be operated by Glenbow and will showcase Canadian art and artists along with offering fellowships, internships and residencies.
“It’s going to be this space full of energy,” Julie said. “We’re really excited to be here.”
The downtown museum is undergoing a $120-million transformation and is expected to reopen in 2024, but there will be exhibits and programs at a temporary pop-up location opening this month.
The doors have been closed at the museum since August 2021 when renovations first started.
According to Bell, some of the renovations on the higher floors are almost complete.
“As we look ahead to the spring and summer, we will be demolishing these very galleries and bringing this down to the base building to start rebuilding the Glenbow for 2024,” he said.
So far, the museum has raised $152 million for the transformation, well above the initial fundraising goal of $135 million.
Glenbow officials said the new goal has been upped to $175 million.
Premier Jason Kenney, one of many elected officials in attendance at the announcement on Thursday, said the transformed museum will help tell the story of Alberta through exhibits and the over 250,000 articles inside.
“Glenbow Reimagined, I think, is going to put us very much on the radar screen of visitors from around the world,” Kenney said. “We also have a world-class cultural life, and Glenbow Reimagined is a critical part of that.”
Two years ago, the Alberta government also committed funding to the museum’s revamp.
Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the Glenbow’s transformation will be another key piece in the city’s revitalization plan for Calgary’s downtown core.
“We often talk about what arts and culture means to tourism — it actually means a lot to the people who live in Calgary as well,” Gondek said. “These are the stories of who we are, and allowing people to engage with them is just so powerful.”
While general admission to the Glenbow will be free, museum officials said special and feature exhibitions will not be included in general admission and will require a yearly membership.