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This article was published 7/5/2016 (2203 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Art, meet business.
Those were essentially the introductions on Friday as representatives of the Winnipeg Art Gallery made their first public pitch to the city’s business community in an effort to raise the $65 million needed to fund the WAG’s proposed Inuit Art Centre.
"We haven’t come to you yet," WAG board member Sandy Riley told members of Winnipeg’s Chamber of Commerce. "But we’re coming. As the government support is now coming together, and we have a lot of private support from people who really understand the national importance of this — now we have to galvanize the Winnipeg community."
'We're all in this together. Winnipeg is unique'‐ WAG director and CEO Stephen Borys
Riley, the CEO of Richardson Financial Group Ltd., told the crowd at the Fairmont Hotel luncheon the root of his sales pitch: "It’s our turn, it’s your turn, to step up and participate in projects like that that really... distinguish Winnipeg from every other community in this country."
The four-level, 40,000-square-foot facility — the only one of its kind in the world — will include Inuit and indigenous art galleries, studio and learning spaces and artist-in-residence and curator-in-residence spaces. WAG officials hope to break ground on the project in the spring of 2017 and complete it in 2020.
The building will cost $50 million, with an additional $15 million to fund programming and endowment. The project is eligible for upwards of $15 million in federal funding, while the former NDP provincial government committed $15 million to the centre last fall. Another $15 million in private funding has been committed, Riley said.
On Friday, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman announced the city would invest $5 million toward the centre over the next five years.
"I’m committed to helping make Winnipeg an internationally recognized leader in indigenous arts and culture," Bowman said. "Indigenous arts and culture constitute a large part of our collective heritage as Winnipeggers, and that makes Winnipeg the logical place to celebrate it. The Inuit Art Centre will play an integral role in promoting indigenous arts and culture, and I’m proud to be a part of that."
Riley said soliciting for private funds should benefit from the recent success of projects such as the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the MTS Centre and the Assiniboine Park Conservatory and Journey to Churchill.
"These projects build on themselves," he said.
Riley said the potential for tourism is "enormous," describing a scenario in which a visitor arrives at the newly renovated RBC Winnipeg Convention Centre.
"When conventions come to Winnipeg, they want to see something they can’t see anywhere else," he said. "On the first day, they’re going to go out and see the Assiniboine Park Conservatory in the morning, and then they’re going to see the polar bears. Then they’re going to get in their car and drive down to the WAG and learn about the people of the North.
"Then they’re going to go down and see the museum for human rights, and they’ll spend the day wandering through there and understanding the whole issue of how rights affect indigenous people in this country. You can’t do that anywhere else in the world.
"And these are world-class facilities," Riley added. "If we as a community take advantage of this.....we will reap enormous benefits."
WAG director and CEO Stephen Borys called the project a "seminal moment" for the gallery. "No one has ever seen Inuit art displayed in such a breathtaking and state-of-the-art venue," he said, referring to the conceptual drawings of the gallery.
"We’re all in this together," Borys said.
"Winnipeg is unique. We’re our own economy in a way. We’re physically removed from other major centres, and yet we’ve done incredibly well to build up all the sectors. And the arts and culture sectors are critical."
Riley said the gallery not only had an element of reconciliation but will also serve as a conduit for and gateway to the North. "It’s an opportunity for us to connect with those communities and understand those communities and help build those communities. We’re becoming a bridge between the North and the south."
"There’s something happening," Riley said. "It’s real. And we have to believe it. And it’s happening because people in this community are making it happen."
Randy Turner spent much of his journalistic career on the road. A lot of roads. Dirt roads, snow-packed roads, U.S. interstates and foreign highways. In other words, he got a lot of kilometres on the odometer, if you know what we mean.