Art Gallery of Grande Prairie

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Construction Update

Rain delays Prairie Art project
Heavy rainfall over the last few weeks has set the restoration project back a few weeks

By remo zaccagna Herald-Tribune staff

 

Heavy rainfall over the last month has delayed the $10 million Art Gallery of Grande Prairie restoration project by a number of weeks.

Initially slated for completion in November, the new space will now be opened to the public in two phases.

“In September we hope to go up to 6,000 square feet by having Gallery 1 and 2 reopened. And then the old high school building we expect to open Jan. 19 with a number of exhibitions,” said director/curator Robert Steven.

The building’s steel frame is almost done, but precipitation over the last few months has contributed to the delay.

“I’ve certainly heard that rain did delay the structural steel day by day and that rain will also be a factor in pouring the concrete on the second floor level,” he said. “And snow was also a big factor in December.

“This year has apparently been unusual for precipitation, and unfortunately in construction that is at the owner’s risk.”

The restoration work is just west of the gallery’s current location in the Montrose Cultural Centre (MCC), focusing on the the historic Grande Prairie High school, built in 1929, and home to the gallery for a number of years until the roof collapsed in March 2007 from a heavy buildup of snow.

The old school’s exterior brick facade is being preserved, while the interior is being completely rebuilt.

Renovations to the Teresa Sargent Hall located next to the gallery are done, including a new second-floor walkway that will lead onto a glass bridge that extends over an exhibition room in the new section of the gallery.

Steven presented the gallery’s annual report to the city’s Community Development committee this week.

According to the report, 12,534 people visited the gallery in 2010-11, down from more than 18,000 the year previous.

However, 6,000 people came through the doors in 2008-09, so last year’s tally was “substantial” considering construction closed most of the gallery to the public for 150 days.

He cited as positive the 1,500 students who visited the gallery, and 164,098 people who visited its travelling exhibitions across northwestern Alberta.

“We think that 2010-11 was a fantastic year for the Prairie Gallery,” he said.

“We think that any reduction in participation, whether it was visits into the gallery or any other measures that are listed there are minor and were easily explainable by the fact that for 40% of the year, our main facility has been severely restricted because of construction.”

Initially, they had planned to be closed for as long as two months.

“There were unexpected changes in plans when it came to construction,” Steven said. “And I think that anyone who’s built a home knows that always happens and you can’t always predict just how big those are going to be.”

rzaccagna@bowesnet.com