The Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) says the provincial government is still committed to helping fund its share of a new $350-million museum building at Larwill Park in downtown Vancouver, despite a report this week that stated the contrary.
The Globe and Mail says it obtained a letter written by BC Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Lisa Beare in December 2017 through a provincial Access to Information request. It interpreted Beare’s letter as the provincial government’s decision to cancel a $50-million funding commitment previously made in 2008 by the BC Liberals under the leadership of Gordon Campbell.
However, that is not the case, as this was actually a rejection of the VAG’s more recent request for a further $50 million in funding to increase the total provincial contribution to $100 million. But the Minister says she would consider more funding in the future if the VAG is able to accelerate its progress on private fundraising.
Moreover, public records show the VAG made a $100-million funding request to the federal government’s $186-billion New Building Canada Fund.
But the dispersal of funds from this program is entirely dependent on the country’s provincial governments, which have been given the responsibility to select projects and create funding requests based on their selected priorities. In essence, the VAG’s access to this federal funding program depends on the provincial government’s approval.
“The Globe and Mail article is a misinterpretation of the information the reporter received. This does not reflect the current position of the provincial government,” VAG spokesperson Johanie Marcoux told Daily Hive.
“We are grateful that the province recognizes the many benefits of building the new Gallery and that the project continues to be of interest to them. We have met with Minister Beare on several occasions as well as with her colleagues to discuss the economic and cultural value that a new gallery will bring to our community, province and country, and we are pleased with the positive response we have received.”
Land for the new museum is provided by the City of Vancouver, which granted the VAG a 99-year lease for the land in 2013.
However, the city maintains this lease still comes with original stipulations set out in the agreement.
“This land offer is dependent on Vancouver Art Gallery raising $100 million from the federal government and another $50 million from the provincial government,” said City of Vancouver spokesperson Ellie Lambert in an email, adding that the city is not in a position to provide direct monetary support.
“At this time, the city does not intend to provide further financial support for the gallery expansion.”
Three years ago, the VAG unveiled a wooden pagoda-like design by internationally renowned Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron, which also designed London’s Tate Modern and Beijing’s Bird Nest Stadium.
The project called for a total floor area of 310,000-sq-ft, including 85,000-sq-ft of exhibition space – more than twice the existing exhibition space found at the old Robson Square courthouse building.
The building sits on stilts ‘suspended’ over a massive 40,000-sq-ft open public courtyard and lobby with a sunken garden that is accessible from all sides of the city block. The bulk of the structure is located on the upper levels to allow light and air to flow into the courtyard.
From the lobby, escalators lead to the second and third levels where there will be exhibition spaces and a 350-seat auditorium. More exhibition space is located on the fifth, sixth and seventh levels while a restaurant will occupy the fourth floor.
The lower half will be enclosed by floor to ceiling glass windows and several upper floors will feature vast outdoor terraces.
The municipal government has set aside the southernmost two-thirds of the Larwill Park city block near West Georgia Street for the VAG while the northernmost one-third parcel near Dunsmuir Street is slated to become two office towers with at least 600,000-sq-ft of combined floor area.
This city block, currently vacant and used as parking, was transformed into a Live Site during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
When the design was first unveiled, the VAG had an initial timeline of starting construction in 2017 for a completion in 2021 or 2022.
“The gallery continues to work closely with all levels of government. We are also working diligently with the private sector to raise the required funds to realize this important project and we are very optimistic about the future,” added Marcoux.