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New multimillion-dollar Art Gallery of Nova Scotia announced for Halifax waterfront


The current Art Gallery of Nova Scotia on Hollis Street will be replaced by a new, expanded gallery and cultural hub on the Halifax waterfront. - Herald file
The current Art Gallery of Nova Scotia on Hollis Street will be replaced by a new, expanded gallery and cultural hub on the Halifax waterfront. - Herald file

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is drawing on provincial and federal funding for a new multimillion-dollar home on the Halifax waterfront.

The 142,000-square-foot facility is to be built on Lower Water Street, between Bishop’s Landing and Salter Street, and will be twice the size of its current building on Hollis Street.

“It’s every art gallery director’s dream to be able to purpose build a building to enable us to do all the things that we can’t do in our space,” Nancy Noble, AGNS chief executive officer and gallery director, said at the Thursday announcement.

Bigger spaces in the new building will allow the gallery to expand its collection, which currently has size restrictions because of low ceilings, said Noble.

The Hollis Street gallery has been housed since 1988 in the historic Dominion Building. It expanded 10 years later to include the Maud Lewis house and gallery in an adjacent building.

The provincial government will contribute at least $70 million, with a cap at $80 million, and the federal government has pledged $30 million for the project. The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia expects to raise about $30 million through a capital campaign.

Noble said the gallery has “been having lots of conversations with donors across the province” and country. She also expects “some sort of contribution” from Halifax Regional Municipality.

Premier Stephen McNeil said the province took the project on because “it’s not just about Halifax.”

“We deserve, quite frankly, all of the things that we see in major cities,” said McNeil. “I believe one thing has been missing in our city and that is an iconic vision or building that would demonstrate how much we value and appreciate the arts inside Nova Scotia.”

NASCAD, part of a waterfront cultural hub announcement in June 2018, was absent from the provincial and federal funding.

“NASCAD wasn’t ready at this time to continue, but that conversation is ongoing,” said McNeil.

Festivals, performances and other outdoor activities that took place in the Salter Block will have a space behind the gallery, said McNeil.

Halifax MP Andy Fillmore said the gallery will bring in more tourists.

The gallery “unites our rural and urban communities and connects our artists to our country and the world,” said Rural Economic Development Minister Bernadette Jordan.

An official design competition for the gallery will be put out to local and global companies soon.

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia will also consult with the community through the design process, similar to the Halifax Central Library, said Noble.

The gallery will also have a new vision, said Noble.

“As we step forward on a new path, we believe it’s time to create a gallery that’s welcoming, contemporary, challenging and ambitious,” said Noble.

“Art has been known to be elitist and some people don’t feel comfortable, so we want to create a space where all Nova Scotians, all people who visit Nova Scotia can come and feel comfortable and see great art,” she said.

McNeil expects construction to get underway in 2020.

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia will have to move its permanent collection of more than 17,000 works. The Maud Lewis house will be disassembled for the move, said Noble.

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