We ventured to the north of the province to attend the Art Gallery of Sudbury’s “How to Purpose Build a ‘Category A’ Museum.” This was a great opportunity for gallery stakeholders and community organizations to understand what a “Category A” museum is and what that might look like for Greater Sudbury’s future art gallery. The Sudbury Public Library and gallery are joining forces to work together on building a new facility, which city council has made a priority project. The new facility would also put the Art Gallery of Sudbury in a “Category A” designation.
The session featured three guest speakers: Lisa Daniels from Alix Gallery in Sarnia, Simon Lambert from the Canadian Conservation Institute and Alexandra Badzak from the Ottawa Art Gallery. Lisa and Alexandra spoke to their own successes and challenges they faced in their recent capital projects while Simon touched on the importance of storage requirements for a “Category A” museum.
But before we recap the session, you might be wondering what is a “Category A” museum?
The term comes from the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Designation of Institutions of and Public Authorities criteria for organizations to access tax incentives and grants. Institutions such as museums, public art galleries, archives and libraries fall under this designation. Plus, a “category A” museum must have unlimited designation from one of the following groups: Objects recovered from the soil or waters of Canada, objects of material ethnographic culture, military objects, objects of applied and decorative arts, objects of fine arts, scientific or technological objects, archival material and musical instruments.
Simon Lambert’s presentation focused on the requirements for movable cultural property for a “Category A” museum. Careful consideration towards storage was a key focus point when arts organizations arrive at the design phase of their building projects. On average, a museum’s collection is 98% in storage at any given time, so it is essential to have the right space reserved or created for this purpose. There are tons more great aspects to consider when designing exhibition space too –read about the Canadian Conservation Institute’s requirements and services!
Alix Gallery in Sarnia – looking back on their capital build
Executive Director Lisa Daniels from Alix Gallery in Sarnia offered wisdom from the gallery’s transformation into a “Category A” purpose-built gallery. The gallery first opened its doors to patrons in 1961 as the Sarnia Public Library and Art Gallery. The gallery outgrew the space and reclaimed The Thom Building (one of downtown Sarnia’s historically and socially significant buildings) to create a purpose- built facility to house a permanent collection and display premiere exhibitions. The building’s gorgeous facade has been retained and restored back its historically accurate condition. Inside, the new facility features world-class equipment and regulatory systems to maintain environmental controls necessitated by world-class artworks.
Lisa’s most significant take away for an organization starting a new build was to deliver on your promises. The classic saying goes “build it and they will come,” but that was not a trap the new gallery was about to fall into. The gallery used marketing and relevant programming to draw patrons to the remarkable new space. They also hosted a rare exhibition shortly after opening which garnered 20,000 visitors; two times their initial goal. This capital project is also a great example of how an arts organization can balance resources during the building phase. While construction work was being completed for the new purpose- built arts facility, Alix Gallery staff brought programming to the community in public spaces.