Study to guide the expansion of the Tom Thomson Art Gallery

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Owen Sound has agreed to a study that would outline the benefits and costs of an expanded Tom Thomson Art Gallery.

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On Monday, City Council approved a recommendation from the Ad Hoc Committee on Gallery Expansion to move forward with a pre-feasibility study for the facility, which would list the benefits and costs of an expanded gallery as well. than a market and financial analysis.

Richard Thomas, chairman of the committee, which has fulfilled its mandate and will not meet again, said the aim of the study will be to “answer the questions that need to be answered before a decision can be made on what will be the future of the gallery perhaps.

“We looked at the site the gallery is currently on and something can be built on that site. What it is, who knows what it will be,” Thomas said. “I think the pre-feasibility study will open many windows and doors and give us a real picture of what we need, how much it’s going to cost.”

The cost of the study is expected to be between $20,000 and $30,000, with staff seeking to cover the cost through project savings and grants. The consultant to conduct the study will be determined through the City’s RFP process.

Thomas said once the study is complete, a future council will have it available to make decisions about the gallery.

Last fall, Grant Diemert of GM Diemert Architect Inc. presented a consultant’s report to the committee which concluded that the gallery needed 35,000 to 38,000 square feet to meet its current and future needs and that the gallery and the adjacent properties of Rice House could accommodate such an establishment.

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The construction of a new gallery on the site would cost between 22 and 30 million dollars.

Building on another site or expanding the current gallery hasn’t been ruled out, but Thomas said the new option of building at the current location is considered practical if the city wants a facility that will last the next 30 to 50 years. .

“The last time the gallery was renovated was 35 years ago. We had known for 16 years that it had to be renovated again,” said Thomas. “We are really in a position now where taking no action is absolutely not on the table. Something has to happen.”

The need for expansion has long been a concern of the gallery due to a lack of storage space for its collection of over 2,600 pieces, with some works having to be stored in cupboards, passageways and exposed areas at the light. There is also a lack of office space for staff with a downstairs studio converted into offices, Thomas said.

There’s also limited permanent exhibition space for the collection, no flexible space for programming, and a dangerous, hard-to-reach loading area, Thomas said.

Other issues include a lack of street presence, outdated equipment and infrastructure, including the essential HVAC system, which is due to be replaced this year.

“A lot of these issues were actually identified in 2006,” Thomas said.

Com. Scott Greig, who voted in favor of the pre-feasibility study with the rest of council, said he was concerned about the cost of the new build option and that there was ‘almost no recognition of the expansion from the northeast corner to facilitate storage and gallery needs. .”

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“I don’t like the idea of ​​just going back to another study and another study, because the taxpayers of this city are watching and electing us to make some of these decisions,” Greig said.

Com. Travis Dodd, who was on the ad hoc committee, said the pre-feasibility study will answer many questions from council, including looking at all construction options, employee needs, operating costs, utilities and revenue generation projections.

Dodd said when council makes a decision, they can choose expansion over new construction.

“Our five-year capital plan does not include any funds allocated for new construction. It’s common knowledge,” Dodd said. “It doesn’t take away from the fact that there are still gaps in this building that we need to fill.”

Deputy Mayor Brian O’Leary said the art gallery and its collection are one of the city’s most important assets.

“I think we have a responsibility to protect it and that’s why I’m in favor of the process,” he said.

Mayor Ian Boddy said he supported expanding the gallery because the collection needs to be safe, the installation needs to be more visible and additional exhibition space is needed, but cautioned not to think too big.

“If we don’t have the capacity to install 35,000 square feet now, we don’t have the financial capacity to pay for 35,000 square feet right now, and then we drop it for another 10 or 12 years, we are not getting to where we need to go now,” Boddy said.

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Gallery director and chief curator Aidan Ware said she appreciated all of Monday’s feedback and stressed the importance of having a strong fundraising campaign around the option ultimately chosen.

She said something needed to be done and that a smaller version of the proposal in question would also be great.

“I think ultimately we have to do what we can afford and what’s going to solve the problem,” Ware said.

. . .

Owen Sound Council gave final approval for the following business licenses at its Monday meeting:

Cardinal Therapies, a remote online/telephone home psychotherapy practice operating in Owen Sound.

Beyond Snapshots Action Photography, a peddler operating at the Owen Sound Attack Hockey Tournament Monday through Wednesday.

Sofa Bed Plus, a sofa bed retailer at 916 2n/a Avenue E.

Lisa Milne will operate Campbells Clothier, a clothing retailer at 1209 16and St E.

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William E. Bennett