|Arts groups scramble for space amidst boom
Calgarys hot real estate market is making it increasingly difficult for arts groups and individual artists to find and keep space anywhere in the inner city leading some people to question whether arts and cultural activities will continue to take place there.
The New Gallery (TNG), an artist-run gallery located at 516 D 9 Ave. S.W., will have to move by the end of January. TNG, which is the oldest artist-run centre in Alberta, has been in its current space for 10 years, but has to leave because the building is getting knocked down to make way for two office towers.
Sigrid Mahr, programming director for TNG, says she is worried about finding another space.
"We could end up in a very sort of desolate space that is nowhere near the downtown and nowhere near a community and would make it very difficult for people to locate us," she says.
Mahr says the gallerys current location is "ideal" because its close to other artist-run galleries such as Truck and Stride, and they can plan opening dates for exhibitions at the same time.
"Weve been getting big crowds out," she says.
The last year has been a strong one for the visual arts community, with Canadian Art Magazine focusing an entire issue on Calgary and Bravo featuring some Calgary galleries in a recent program, says Mahr.
She says shes concerned that skyrocketing real estate prices will make downtown Calgary a cultural wasteland.
"People come to certain cities to view the arts. They want to experience it and thats what helps the economy thrive as well so city planners and
they have to recognize that and realize how much we actually contribute to Calgarys makeup," she says.
She adds that increasingly unaffordable studio space and high rents for apartments and housing may force artists to move out of Calgary.
"One of the things we dont want is to have Calgary artists leave
but if prices continue to go up and theres no support from the city theyre going to start leaving," says Mahr.
Justin Waddell, director of Stride Gallery, says his gallery has a lease for another year and a half, but he is not sure what will happen after that. He says rents have gone up "dramatically" in other spaces in the building where Stride is located.
"Were definitely concerned about it. Weve got a building committee and were looking at new spaces," he says.
Waddell says hes also worried about the lack of studio space available for artists to rent in the inner city.
"Anything downtown is impossible," he says.
Waddell and his wife, who is also an artist, have also just had their rent double to $1,200 and he agrees with Mahr that the high cost of living may force other artists out of Calgary. He says he and his wife initially moved to Calgary because it was cheaper than Toronto, but thats changing fast.
"I think for the younger artists theres less reason to stay if they cant afford to stay," he says.
NDP calls for ministry of housing
NDP MLA Ray Martin is calling on the government to create a ministry of housing dedicated to addressing the lack of affordable housing and the rapidly rising rates of homelessness in the province.
He points out that housing prices have increased by over 30 per cent in Edmonton and by over 40 per cent in Calgary over the past year. Lack of affordable housing is also a major problem in Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie.
Currently the Seniors and Community Supports Ministry is responsible for housing, but housing is only one of many issues the ministry deals with. Martin says the province needs to start taking the housing crisis in the province more seriously and could do so with a ministry dedicated to it.