Art lovers are familiar with what is described as ‘postmodern art.’
Now, the Art Gallery of Algoma (AGA) is envisioning a renovated and expanded post-COVID art gallery.
“There are issues with this current building. We are limited in what we can do and how we can serve the community, whether it’s the arts community or the tourism sector. Now, in the time of COVID, everything is different, but this will not last forever, so we have to look beyond this and look at how we want to see the gallery re-emerge,” said Jasmina Jovanovic, AGA executive director and chief curator, speaking to SooToday.
The AGA board, staff and a special renovation/expansion committee, on Oct. 16, put out an invitation to experts with experience in developing proposals for art galleries to submit requests for proposals (RFPs) and present their ideas for the Sault waterfront attraction.
“We should feature permanently, one way or another, on a rotating basis, something that reflects The Group of Seven, also another space that reflects our Indigenous culture, also Dr. Roberta Bondar’s photographs...if you think of it from the tourism perspective, it would be nice to feature what is telling the story of Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma,” Jovanovic said.
That wouldn’t be all.
The AGA would also like to have space to showcase work by Sault and area artists.
“We would also like to enable local artists to have more space on a permanent (but rotating) basis, but to have a dedicated space where they can feature their art, and also, of course, bring in travelling exhibitions from outside that a lot of people, especially these days, cannot see (due to COVID-19 transmission fears linked to travel),” Jovanovic said.
The AGA is also looking at adding a space for food and beverages to be enjoyed by visitors.
“The AGA would like to explore the potential of some form of food services within the facility. This facility could include a seasonal exterior patio, with access to the surrounding sculpture garden park allowing the AGA to offer refreshments and confections to not only visitors within the facility but also those using the external spaces,” an AGA document outlining the gallery’s vision states.
“We decided to put all our dreams out there (in calling for RFPs),” Jovanovic said.
“We have storage issues for art, and office space. Everything is tight. We outgrew this building.”
“The gallery did an amazing job over the last 45 years in growing this much but it is time now to look forward to the next 45 years.”
The AGA is currently 10,000 square feet in size, but Jovanovic said she does not have a specific new size in mind when it comes to the desired renovation and expansion.
“I’m going to rely on the experts (in answering that question),” she said.
The AGA is anticipating the cost of the project to not exceed $200,000.
“The funding is going to be grants, federal and possibly some provincial (local funding also a possibility),” Jovanovic said.
The gallery is asking for all RFPs to be sent in a sealed envelope to the AGA at 10 East Street in Sault Ste. Marie by 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020.
The writer(s) of the chosen RFP will be notified Jan 8, 2021 (or sooner), with the project to hopefully begin Jan. 22, 2021 (or sooner).
“It will be a lengthy process but we don’t have enough space to function properly and there are building issues, just like any old house that’s showing signs of its age and we have to address that. We don’t really have a choice,” Jovanovic said.
“In a month or so we would know who our chosen candidate is but we will hopefully have some grant applications, then we will have to wait to get the funding. This is our wish list and is this list going to be feasible, that is the question.”
The need for work to be done on the gallery was identified five years ago, that need becoming more pronounced over the past two years, Jovanovic said.
Flooding problems at the gallery in recent years have been repaired as best as possible for now, Jovanovic said.
However, she added “the water is coming in, in different spots in the building, through the floor. According to the architect, there is pressure building underneath, the foundation. We’ve repaired the wall, we've repaired the roof and that enabled us to function, to still present some very good exhibitions and programming and engage with the community, but it isn’t a permanent solution.”
None of the AGA’s collection of 5,000 paintings, drawings, photographs and three-dimensional works of art such as sculptures and pottery have been damaged by flooding, Jovanovic said.
The special AGA renovation/expansion committee, which exists apart from the gallery’s board, consists of Dr. Roberta Bondar (honorary chair), Susan Myers (Algoma District School Board trustee), City Councillor Matthew Shoemaker, Sault architect David Ellis, lawyer Mark Lepore and The Algoma Art Society’s Nora Ann Harrison.
The gallery was closed due to the provincial COVID-19 shutdown in March, reopened since then with reduced hours of operation, open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
The AGA was launched as a non-profit public art gallery by a group of art enthusiasts and volunteers, incorporated July 7, 1975. The AGA moved to its present location in 1980 and includes four exhibition spaces, the Ken Danby Education Studio, the Gallery Café and the AGA Gallery Shop. The AGA is the only public art gallery in Algoma and also serves Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and five bordering states.
The AGA’s operational/programming requirements are primarily funded by the City of Sault Ste. Marie (approximately $280,000 annually) and various other grants and funds support projects and on-going activities.
Details of the AGA’s invitation for RFPs may be found on the gallery’s website.