Plans to improve and expand the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria took a major step forward Sunday with the announcement of $6 million in funding from the provincial government.
The $30-million initiative, known as the Next Gallery Project, is expected to begin in spring 2019 and take up to two years to complete, said gallery director Jon Tupper. There had been efforts to find a downtown location for the gallery, but the decision to stay at the current Moss Street site was made a number of years ago.
Tupper said $7.5 million has already been raised by the gallery itself, and a public fundraising program will be launched. Federal funding is also anticipated.
Sunday’s announcement was made at the gallery by Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Lisa Beare, who said the facility has been a vital local resource for close to 70 years.
“The art gallery provides an important service by promoting our province’s artistic and cultural heritage,” Beare said. “This gallery is home to over 18,000 works of art, including one of the largest and finest collections of Asian art in North America.
“More than 150,000 people came through these doors last year to enjoy the remarkable exhibitions that were presented here.”
As well, the gallery’s touring exhibits reached many others, she said.
“Beyond its exhibitions, the gallery plays a huge role in fostering the excitement of learning and loving art through its educational programs for children and families.”
Beare said the gallery has also become a hub for regional artists who inspire “cultural, creative communities.”
Support for the galley is part of an overall awareness by the provincial government of the important role that arts and culture plays, Beare said.
The project to revamp the gallery “will mean a modern building that will protect the valuable pieces of art within.”
“We want to ensure this treasure for future generations,” Beare said. “The new building is going to help connect more people to arts in British Columbia.”
Ruth Wittenberg, president of the gallery’s board of directors, said it was a great day for all involved.
“This funding is a significant investment in our capital city,” she said. “We know that cultural centres are key to healthy cities.”
Wittenberg said Victoria has changed significantly since she moved here in 1974, and now the gallery will also change.
“It’s transformed into an internationally known city, and now will have a centre for arts and culture that reflects that transformation,” she said.
Wittenberg said the new gallery will be able to reach an even broader audience with more exhibitions and public-education programs, and will provide an “enduring legacy” for British Columbians.