Gallery expects more visitors

From left, Scott Simon, Clint Kuschak, Katie Crowe, Barry Smith and Angie Maltese are some of the members of the AWE Capital Fundraising Campaign for the new Thunder Bay Art Gallery.

Seven years in the making, the new Thunder Bay Art Gallery that is to be built at the waterfront took a big step forward on Monday.

The project’s capital fundraising campaign team was announced along with a hopeful completion date for the project sometime in 2020-2021.

The name of the fundraising campaign is AWE, an acronym for Art Waterfront Experience, but also a description of what the finished gallery is expected to inspire.

“People have told me they think the building is awe inspiring,” said Sharon Godwin, director of the gallery. “It is a very beautiful building on a very beautiful site and a wonderful location.”

Surrounded by paintings, sketches, photos, and sculptures in gallery three of the current art gallery, Godwin introduced Katie Crowe as the chair of the AWE Capital Fundraising Campaign.

For Crowe, who is the manager of corporate brand communications with Tbaytel, chairing the fundraising team is akin to a labour of love.

“My heart is with the arts,” said Crowe. “My background and my upbringing is very much embedded in the arts, it was rooted in going to the symphony going to Magnus Theatre and Cambrian Players.”

For 15 years Crowe worked at the Community Auditorium in the marketing and sponsorship departments. It was a career that created relationships with a lot of people who support the arts, she said.

The fundraising team, which is made up of six members besides Crowe, comes from a cross-section of the community, explained Godwin, in order to connect with as many people as possible.

With a goal of raising $2.5 million by the end of 2018, the team has a big job ahead. It’s a tight timeline, agreed Crowe, but she added that the team feels confident they will be able to wrap up the campaign in just over a year from now.

“We feel that it is not only reasonable and achievable for this market but it is something that the community as a whole is looking at being able to support in a lot of different ways,” said Crowe.

The team has already been approaching individuals and corporations for support, said Crowe.

“Once we get into early 2018 we’ll be looking at doing some more public engagement and some community activities that the public can get involved in,” said Crowe.

With a $5 million commitment to the project from the city, Crowe said the bulk of funding is expected to come from both the federal and provincial governments.

“Those requests have been made and we should be hearing by the end of this year whether those requests are successful,” said Crowe.

“But we are very confident in the feedback we’ve been getting from those funders in realizing the amount we’re asking for.”

With a total project cost estimated at $33 million, Godwin said the AWE fundraising campaign goal may be less than 10 per cent of that total ,but is expected to lever over $20 million from the government.

“People have said let’s get it in Thunder Bay because it’s got to go somewhere, so we’d like to have that money here for our community,” said Godwin. “We’re confident because we’ve done our work and research and built a wonderful team of people who know a lot of people and who believe in the project.”

The new gallery will be a 40,000-square foot space that will provide more room to display permanent collections as well as to expand programming, said Godwin. With more visibility at the waterfront, Godwin also predicts they will attract more visitors to the gallery.

“It’s gratifying that we’ve come this far. The community has really embraced the project,” said Godwin. “The city, by committing the $5 million to construction, really changed the face of this project and the viability of it.”

The capital fundraising campaign team members are Donald Paterson as honorary chair, John Sims as deputy chair, Angie Maltese as personal gifts chair, Scott Simon as business and industry chair, Clint Kuschak as community engagement chair, and Barry Smith as for public awareness.

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